Even Theresa May is ‘disappointed’ police are still holding misconduct hearings in private

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A failure by some police forces to open themselves up to scrutiny by holding misconduct hearings in private is “immensely disappointing”, a former prime minister has said.

Theresa May, who introduced measures to improve transparency, including requiring such hearings to be held in public, said too many are still taking place behind closed doors.

The former home secretary was commenting on an analysis by the Times newspaper which found that, of more than 40 misconduct outcome notices published relating to officers and staff in England and Wales in the past month, almost half were anonymised.

The newspaper also reported that figures obtained under Freedom of Information showed there have been 1,147 hearings since 2018.

The Times said forces were unable to say whether 502 of them were held in public or private, and of the remaining 645 hearings, one in four were held in private.

Read on...

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“Immensely disappointing”

May said the impression is that forces are putting their reputations first.

Writing in the newspaper, she said:

It is immensely disappointing to learn that more than six years on (from the introduction of the measures), a number of police forces appear unwilling to open themselves up to scrutiny.

Police misconduct hearings
The former prime minister says she is concerned police are “prioritising the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice” (Andy Buchanan/PA)

According to the results of this investigation, too many hearings are still being held in private and the process of notifying the public of the results of those hearings is still worryingly opaque.

It leaves the impression that the police, whose job it is to protect the public, are prioritising the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice.”

She said the problem is not new but instead “a deep-rooted and long-standing issue”, citing examples including  Hillsborough and the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

May concluded:

Surely now it is time for the police to properly ensure that where instances of corruption and misconduct do occur, they are rooted out with vigour on every occasion — and that this is done openly for all to see.

“Not fit for purpose”

However, there are questions over whether the whole system is fit for purpose. For example, 4917 complaints were made against the Met Police since 2014. But only 17 officers faced disciplinary hearings and just six officers were actually disciplined. The Morning Star reported:

Following these allegations, just six were proven, with four officers receiving management advice, one a written warning and another a final written warning.

As StopWatch commented at the time, the figures show that:

once again that the police complaints system is not fit for purpose.”

Worse still, the sheer volume of complaints tell us that too many police officers in London who conduct stop and searches cannot be trusted to do so properly.

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