Letter: Policing the police

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Wadham of Liberty criticised almost everything about the way deaths in police custody are currently examined (letters, 8 August.)

He acknowledged that "the Police Complaints Authority has a role in supervision". However he failed to appreciate that our oversight ensures that a civilian Authority member directs the inquiry and guarantees that an impartial and thorough investigation takes place. Authority members supervise more than 40 inquiries into deaths in custody every year. That gives us considerably more experience of such tragedies than most police officers. I see every completed inquiry and I know that police involvement does not taint them, as Mr Wadham suggested.

It is nonsense to say that only 1 per cent of all complaints lead to charges against officers - criminal charges yes; disciplinary charges no. Last year 4,684 fully investigated cases, including deaths in custody, led to 1,277 formal or informal disciplinary actions.

We have called for disclosure, by the coroner, of evidence to the family of the deceased and are in active discussions with the Coroners' Society.

In addition we are seeking ways of preventing such tragedies happening. That is why we participated in the Lambeth working group which produced the Lessons from Tragedies report and why we are now working on a study of deaths in custody with the Police Surgeons Association.


Acting Chairman

Police Complaints Authority

London SW1