Police retirements questioned

HOME OFFICE guidelines designed to prevent police officers taking early medical retirement and avoiding disciplinary action have failed to work, the Police Complaints Authority said yesterday.

Announcing a 15 per cent increase in cases completed during 1992, Sir Leonard Peach, the authority's chairman, says in its annual report that there are still too many major allegations of police misbehaviour in which 'an exodus' of medical retirements comes before the disciplinary hearings, which then become irrelevant.

Sir Leonard says that though guidelines were issued to chief constables following concern at such retirements, 'the early signs are that these have not been successful'.

'The announcement in major cases of an exodus from the service, some leaving under privileged conditions, continues to damage the image of a service. . . justice should not be seen to be denied.'

At a press conference, Sir Leonard said chief officers' powers should be strengthened, there should be a central medical review panel and retirements should not be granted until after hearings.

The authority will not identify any cases, but its members have been concerned about a number, including the retirement of the senior officer facing discipline charges in the Hillsborough case and of officers investigated over corruption allegations in Doncaster.

Sir Leonard also told the press conference that the authority was concerned about the number of cases where a complaint was made against the police by a suspect in order to discredit officers at the suspect's trial. In such cases the authority can tell the police they do not have to investigate. The proportion of these rose from 22 per cent of all cases to 31 per cent in 1992.

During 1992, the authority completed a total of 9,200 cases - or 19,000 separate complaints - an increase of 15 per cent over 1991 while the total number of serious cases referred to the authority rose from 4,330 in 1991 to 4,476.

The report says that 8,366 cases, or almost 13,000 complaints, resulted in no form of criminal or disciplinary action. One hundred cases resulted in a criminal charge and a further 207 in a disciplinary case.