Letter: Wholesale changes needed in police disciplinary system

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a solicitor specialising in representing clients in civil actions against the police, I echo the views expressed by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands ("Corrupt police can't be touched", 10 July).

It is our experience that despite heads of police forces agreeing to pay thousands of pounds in damages to clients and legal costs, very, very rarely are individual police officers ever disciplined or prosecuted.

One of the reasons is the unique protection given to police officers whereby their employers have to satisfy a criminal burden of proof to prove wrong-doing (a privilege not given to the fire service or the Prison Service).

There are, however, other reasons why officers against whom serious allegations are made are not disciplined. The "double jeopardy" system whereby evidence used against a police officer in a criminal trial cannot be reused at a disciplinary hearing. The facts that the Police Complaints Authority only "supervises" serious complaints and does no "investigating", and that the complaint itself is investigated by police officers from the same police force, are unacceptable.

If the public is to have confidence in the way the police are policed, wholesale changes are needed in the police complaints and discipline system.


Christian Fisher, Solicitors

London WC1