The Legal Test

When a complaint is received by a police force, in most cases they have to decide whether the complaint is suitable for Local Resolution or Local Investigation.

This decision process should follow the legal test that is set out in the IPCC Statutory Guidance(page  94) and Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act – but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s decided on the toss of a coin and a two headed coin at that.

The legal test must be applied to the substance of the complaint, not applied with hindsight after the complaint has been dealt with or from information that has been gathered during the handling of the complaint so it is important to ensure the initial complaint you make contains the right level of information to ensure the correct track is assigned.

Here are two complaints I logged with the now infamous South Yorkshire Police which, in my  opinion, were assigned the wrong track despite my complaint giving the correct information.

Complaint A

Having provided South Yorkshire Police with a USB stick containing CCTV evidence, when it was returned the USB stick was infected with malware. I submitted a complaint to

them along with a substantial amount of technical information to help them track down where in their infrastructure the malware may have infected my USB stick.
The Head of Professional Standards made contact with me and asked if my compliant was one of misconduct a staff member or police officer. My response to him contained the

phrase ‘I wish for this to be recorded as a complaint against the force’, my belief being that this was simply a policy / procedure that needed tightening up.

The complaint was recorded and submitted to the Local Investigation track.

Complaint B

This complaint made an allegation that a number of officers from the Professional Standards Department of South Yorkshire Police had breached a policy.

The complaint detailed the officers names along with the dates the breaches had taken place. I quoted the section of the policy and the penalty section that states that ‘failure to comply with this instruction may lead to the instigation of criminal and/or disciplinary proceedings’.

I closed the letter with the statement ‘I trust that this complaint will be recorded and investigated via Local Investigation’

The complaint was recorded and submitted to the Local Resolution track. Not only that, but DCC Holt performed an instant Local Resolution without making any contact with me whatsover, in other words he opened and closed the matter in one fell swoop.