When a person makes a complaint against the police, one of the first things the Professional Standards Department (PSD) must do is decide the Relevant Review Body. (RRB) The RRB is often referred to as the Relevant Appeal Body (RAB).
The RRB is the person (or body) you can appeal to if you are not happy with the handling of your complaint.
This RRB decision is a formal process and specific rules must be followed when making this decision.
The reason being, if the RRB is the Chief Constable, and your complaint is not upheld, your only appeal option is back to the police force who made the original decision. Yes, they investigate themselves, and if they find they did ‘nothing wrong‘, you can only ask them to reinvestigate themselves!
If they decide the RRB is the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), then you are given an ‘independent review’ (appeal) of the police made a decision.
The RRB decision process is very simple, (so simple a child could understand it), unsurprisingly though, many police forces seem to get it very wrong (most often in their favour).
The RRB Test as published in the IOPC Focus document is as follows;
Who is the ‘relevant review body’?
18.5 The appropriate authority should decide who the relevant review body is, and this must be communicated to the complainant (see paragraph 17.73). Depending on the circumstances of the complaint, the application for a review will be considered either by the local policing body or the IOPC.
18.6 The IOPC is the relevant review body where:
i. the appropriate authority is a local policing body
ii. the complaint is about the conduct of a senior officer (an officer holding a rank above chief superintendent)
iii. the appropriate authority is unable to satisfy itself, from the complaint alone, that the conduct complained of (if it were proved) would not justify the bringing of criminal or disciplinary proceedings or would not involve an infringement of a person’s rights under Article 2 or 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights
iv. the complaint has been, or must be, referred to the IOPC
v. the IOPC is treating the complaint as having been referred
vi. the complaint arises from the same incident as a complaint falling within ii-v
vii. any part of the complaint falls within ii-vi
18.7 In any other case the relevant review body is the local policing body.
18.8 The test at paragraph 18.6 iii must be assessed on the substance of the complaint alone, not on the apparent merit of the allegations or with hindsight after the complaint has been dealt with.
For the purpose of this article, I am highlighting complaints against the police that are incorrectly assigned with the RRB being the Chief Constable (or Police and Crime Commissioner) being based on a potential outcome of criminal proceedings, misconduct proceedings or infringements of the Human Rights Act (Articles 2 & 3)
When the police decide the RRB, they must look at the substance of your complaint. (this makes properly writing the police complaint more important).
If your complaint against police is of an allegation that, if proven, would justify criminal or misconduct proceedings, then the RRB must be the IOPC.
What this means is, irrespective of any evidence supporting your complaint, and prior to any investigation, the police cannot make assumptions what the outcome ‘may be‘, the decision must be on the complaint alone.
The police cannot review any evidence to see if the complaint has merit. The substance of your complaint decides the RRB… not the police.
This is expressly stated in 18.8 the complaint “must be assessed on the substance of the complaint alone, not on the apparent merit of the allegations or with hindsight after the complaint has been dealt with.”
An incorrectly made RRB decision should be brought to the attention of the decision-maker immediately seeking for it to be corrected. As long as you have met the IOPC conditions in your complaint and the police decision is contradictory to the IOPC guidelines, then a Judicial Review can be considered.
Recently, I made a complaint against a Lancashire police officer. The complaint was of Perjury. Contrary to the Perjury Act 1911. Irrespective of any evidence, the allegation alone (the substance of the complaint), IF PROVEN, would absolutely justify criminal proceedings, possibly a custodial sentence up to 7 years!
Not surprisingly, Lancashire police (conveniently) decided that the RRB was the Police and Crime Commissioner. A forceful reply to them and the IOPC, soon made them change their unlawful decision. They confirmed they ‘made a mistake‘ and changed the RRB to the IOPC.
Two other recent complaints against two different police forces allege breaches of Article 3 of the Human rights Act (amongst other things).
Not surprisingly both police forces ‘incorrectly’ decided the RRB was the Chief Constable. Such decisions are, without question, unlawful, and clearly go against the published guidelines and would succeed in a Judicial Review. both forces have been put on notice of the intended action should they fail to change their decisions.
Are you a victim of abuse of the complaints process?
If you have made a complaint against the police and the allegations yo made if proven could result in criminal or misconduct proceedings, and the police have decided the RRB is not the IOPC, please get in touch with us ASAP.
We will endeavour to assist you in having this error corrected and if necessary, advising on the steps required for a Judicial Review of the decision.
It is about time that this police abuse of the complaints process is stopped, the only way at present is by using the High Court.
Ironically, this ‘abuse of process’ has already been identified by the IOPC in Focus 11 April 2018 where the IOPC stated.
Furthermore, in some of these cases, the forces had not assessed the complaint purely on its substance, as required by the PRA (police Reform Act). We found examples where forces had inappropriately carried out investigative actions to assist local resolution assessments, and a small number of cases where the outcome of the complaint appeared to have been pre-judged.