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April 23rd 2015

Civil Liberties

Police transparency – are we really being told what we need to know?

Police transparency – are we really being told what we need to know?

By Andrew Petherbridge, Associate of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Neil Hudgell Solicitors – an expert in handling claims against the police for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, assault and human rights breaches

By Andrew Petherbridge, Associate of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Neil Hudgell Solicitors – an expert in handling claims against the police for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, assault and human rights breaches

IT was interesting to see Humberside Police publish details relating to the gross misconduct cases involving employees over the past year.

It revealed a police staff member had been sacked for numerous driving offences and then lying about them, and that a police sergeant had been handed a final written warning for an ‘inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable female’.

Interesting stuff.

However, from a legal point of view, and perhaps of greater concern to law-abiding members of the public, would be the admission that two officers, a sergeant and a constable, were both only given final written warnings following allegations of ‘discreditable conduct’ and the ‘use of excessive force’.

Humberside Police says it hopes publishing details of misconduct cases on its website will increase public confidence in the force, as previously, the information was only available on request.

A spokesman said: “We are committed to transparency and when our staff fall short of our code of ethics we feel it is important to tell the public.”

The move follows the introduction of the national Code of Ethics – a written guide launched by the College of Policing earlier this year, outlining the principles every member of policing of England and Wales is expected to uphold and the standards of behaviour they are expected to meet.

That all sounds fine and good, but exactly how transparent is this new information we are being given.

Are we told who the officers (public servants who have failed in their line of duty) were?

Where exactly did the incidents occur and in what circumstances was the ‘excessive force’ used, and why were their actions considered to be bad enough to issue a final warning, but not enough to bring about their dismissal?

When you ask these questions, this information hardly seems transparent.

In my work as an Associate of The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives at Neil Hudgell Solicitors, in which I handle a variety of claims against the police, my clients range from those who have been wrongfully arrested and accused of serious offences to those who have been subjected to assaults by the police.

Unfortunately, for them, making a complaint is not a quick and easy process, and transparency is not a word often used.

For many, solicitors included, it is a frustrating process. Gaining access to the full details of cases involving complaints against the police can require a lot of legwork and investigation before the full circumstances are uncovered and admitted, and settlements are secured.

Our expertise and legal knowledge means we can break through the barriers often in place at the start of the complaints process, and ensure the matter reaches those in senior positions.

It is those such cases which will end up on these new website lists.

When they are published on there, they may be simply summarised as ‘gross misconduct / final warning’, but in reality, we know there will a much more detailed story to tell, and we are happy to listen and provide free initial advice on your legal position.

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