High Court Finds That The IOPC Has Been Applying The ‘Wrong Test’ When Assessing Reasonable Force | Guest Blog

This Guest Blog has been written by Father Andrew Birks (Twitter: @AGBirks) who was one of four Metropolitan Police Officers subjected to an IPCC/IOPC investigation that lasted nearly 11 years.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Andrew and his former Met colleagues were cleared of any wrongdoing. 

Father Birks now campaigns for the fairer treatment of Police Officers who are subjected to IOPC investigations:

“Yesterday the Office for Police Conduct announced that it would be appealing against a decision by the High Court ruling which ruled that the (I)OPC had been applying the wrong ‘test’ when assessing use of force, and that now when assessing Misconduct issues they must use the criminal test and not the civil test.

Of course, the Office for Police Conduct have a legal right afforded to them to challenge any decision that they think is wrong and where they believe they have grounds for appeal, those grounds should be tested. 

It is simply right and proper, and these legal challenges are open to all who choose judicial processes to resolve differences. 

However, tellingly, Phil Matthews (Police Federation of England and Wales Conduct lead) commented, 

The Judge did not give you leave to appeal this judgment. That speaks volumes.”

What is concerning is that there maintains a lack of welfare to the officers concerned, and/or their families and colleagues. 

A simple discussion with the MPS and/or those representing the officer could have been made which would have prepared them for the announcement which came through social media, rather than correctly informing the officer of the decision to appeal.

This strikes in the face of those who have assured me over the recent weeks that there is to be more emphasis placed on the welfare of the officers involved. 

One hopes that when the officer found out yesterday that the appeal was being launched, (so brutally and publicly announced), they were in a place where that information could be digested and assessed properly

For those who have tried to convince me that the shameful decision of the MPS in 2014, not to tell me I had been suspended, but for me to find out from BBC News, clearly still exists today. 

Something the ‘independent’ Police Complaints Commission (as it was then) fought for, and publicly commented on before I knew. 

What yesterday’s announcement does, is add further shame to the processes which are supposed to protect officers who are under investigation, either by the force or the (I)OPC. 

The mental and physical health damage that this caused me, was immense.

By behaving in this way Jonathan Green in his statement yesterday has simply shown that there was no welfare consideration for the officer involved, and the sole purpose was to suggest that it is right and proper for the Office for Police Conduct, to ensure that there can be confidence in policing by consent. 

But the real confidence issue lays at the door to the (I)OPC themselves. In recent press releases, the (I)OPC have actively sought to distance themselves and have tried to declare their independence, yet when it came to the press release following the conclusion of our hearing, not once did Sarah Green apologise to the officers. 

No apology from Sarah for the failed and flawed information presented at the hearing, for the lies and disingenuous behaviour of (I)OPC staff. 

Sadly, Sarah’s own conduct has recently been challenged when she was disciplined for sending a birthday card to a complainant on the first day of a hearing, which, we are told, was sent “in a personal, and not professional capacity“.  

There can be no Personal capacity, and Sarah should know that, given her previous role as Deputy Chair of the IPCC. 

The Independence of the (I)OPC is being eroded by the actions of so few who do not belong in an organisation which should exist to promote fair and transparent investigations, which maintain a focus on the welfare of all those involved.

I plead with Michael Lockwood and Jonathan Green to take a moment and recognise the damage that press releases and statement can cause on those involved in the investigations and to make sure that they are informed, so that their welfare, and the welfare of their family, can be managed appropriately”. 

2 comments

  • If it takes so long for IOPC to investigate an accusation then they are not fit for purpose, and should be taken to task and disbanded =.

  • Having been at the receiving end of two manslaughter trails – the first failing at the jury stage – directed by Sarah Green, I agree wholeheartedly with the author here. His experiences are matched by mine. The sheer lack of independence of the IPCC/IOPC and their complete immersion into the lives of the family were brutally illustrated in my case where the lead investigating officer was also the family liaison officer.

    The investigation into my actions, whilst necessary of course, was in no way an independent assessment of the evidence, but a witch-hunt designed to prove their own erroneous theory. I, too, was exonerated and to this day have no idea what I am supposed to have done wrong. However, by then, the damage to my career and the serious physical and mental health problems for my family and I, was done. The IOPC could nto care less about me, my collegues, my family or any concept of independence. I came very close to suicide, and all I thought was that they would have been quite happy with that outcome. That is how bad it is.

    The worst part is I have nobody to complain to regarding their clear and obvious bias, both in investigative terms and their biased press releases. They can publish what they like, whist the police, and particularly me, have no recourse to put our sides of the story forward. The IOPC have no oversight and simply get away with this behaviour time and time and time again.

    On the plus side, mine “only” took 7 years to resolve in my favour, as opposed to the 11 years that Andrew suffered. The effects were the same.

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