If you have ever made a complaint against a police Chief Constable, you will no doubt be familiar with the protective bubble that is immediately inflated around him (or her).
I have noticed on several occasions how complaints against Chief Officers are swiftly deflected by Crime Commissioners, often incorrectly citing that the Chief Officer has ‘delegated his responsibility’ and by this, the OPCC will not record a complaint citing he had ‘no involvement‘.
It is important to note that, Crime Commissioners lawful duties are to hold Chief Constables to account, and not defend them, as would be the job of a legal department.
It seems that a Chief Constable can get away with anything, so long as he ‘delegates‘ his authority & responsibility elsewhere, at least, until….
I started digging…
(The bold text is the key to my findings and is useful if you are skim reading)
The IOPC Statutory Guidance 2020, at point 1.23, incorrectly states;
“The chief officer can delegate their responsibilities under Part 2 to the Police Reform Act 2002…”
However, part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002 at section (23)(2)(p) says;
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the power conferred by subsection (1) or of any other power to make regulations conferred by any provision of this Part, the Secretary of State may also by regulations provide—
(p) for chief officers to have power to delegate the exercise or performance of powers and duties conferred or imposed on them by or under this Part;
Therefore, as incorrectly stated in IOPC Statutory Guidance, the Police Reform Act 2002 does not give the power to office holders to delegate ‘responsibility’. It provides the power to delegate the exercise or performance of powers and duties. It goes on to say that delegation should be made to ‘responsible officials’ but it does not make those officials ‘responsible’.
On further research, Carltona Ltd v. Commissioners of Works , Lord Greene MR makes it clear that responsibility cannot be delegated.
Lord Greene MR says
In the administration of government in this country the functions which are given to [office holders]…are functions so multifarious that no [office holder] could ever attend to them… It cannot be supposed that this regulation meant that, in each case, the [office holder] in person should direct his mind to the matter. The duties imposed on [office holders] and the powers given to [office holders] are normally exercised under the authority of the [the office holder] by responsible officials… Public business could not be carried on if that were not the case. Constitutionally, a decision of such an official is, of course, the decision of the [the office holder]. The [office holder] is responsible. It is he who must answer… for anything that his officials have done under his authority, and, if for an important matter he selected an official of such junior standing that he could not be expected competently to perform the work, the [office holder] would have to answer.
The above case cites the following Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Oladehinde: HL 18 Oct 1990
The Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020 also has several references to the Delegation of exercise or performance of powers and duties by chief officers, specifically referenced in chapter 46.
There is nowhere in legislation providing a public office holder with the power to delegate away their responsibiility.
The IOPC Statutory Guidance 2020 is wrong.
How many complaints made against Chief Constables have been incorrectly refused to be recorded?
Please let me know your thoughts and comments below, I may be wrong and would appreciate any feedback.