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Gather Evidence for a Police Complaint

The police have been in the spotlight recently and not for good reasons. There have been repeated examples of police officers’ appalling conduct ranging from rude and aggressive behaviour right up to rape and murder. The reputation of the police is at an all time low. They’re not trusted and so people are bound to be sceptical about making a complaint, fearing it will be ignored or that they’ll pay a price. What can you do to get listened to? How do you gather evidence for a complaint about the police.

How will I know what to record to gather evidence for a police complaint?

First you should find out about police complaints and how to make them by searching online, including our advice using the link below, for good information and guidance. Get a good grasp of what’s required and how to get the best outcome. Make sure you understand what you can complain about, where to go to make your complaint and how you should present your complaint. 

All police officers should:

  • Act with honesty and integrity;
  • Treat members of the public and their colleagues with respect;
  • Not abuse the extraordinary powers and authority they have; and
  • Act in a manner that does not discredit or undermine public confidence in the police service

But what do you do when faced with someone who doesn’t abide by these rules?

For helpful guidance see the links below about making a police complaint, making records and what kind of things to record. It’s just some of the useful links on our website, though, so explore further.  We also have video guidance to help you understand how to get the best out of the ONRECORD app. 

Complaining about the police

https://www.myonrecord.com/how-onrecord-helps-you/complaining-about-the-police/

Police powers

https://www.myonrecord.com/evidence-gathering-for-individuals/police-powers/

How to make good records 

https://www.myonrecord.com/how-to-make-good-records/

You will find information and help on the Independent Office for Police Conduct website 

https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/complaints-reviews-and-appeals/make-complaint

https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/Easyread/Easyread_A_guide_to_the_complaints_system.pdf

There’s more guidance here with some examples of abuse of position and improper emotional relationship: https://policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/statutoryguidance/Operationa_%20advice_note_mandatory_referral_criteria_April_2017.pdf 

Advicenow has produced this: 

https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/Easyread/Easyread_A_guide_to_the_complaints_system.pdf

and this is on the Citizens Advice website: 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/law-and-courts/legal-system-s/police-s/complaints-and-legal-action-against-the-police/

How will I know what I can complain about when I gather evidence for a police complaint?

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) defines a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction with the way someone has been treated or with the service they have received:

  • Inappropriate behaviour towards you by a police officer or member of police staff. For example, if they were rude or aggressive in their treatment of you, pushed or shoved you, or treated you unfairly or in a discriminatory way;
  • If you witnessed an incident where a police officer or member of police staff acted inappropriately;
  • If you have been adversely affected by the conduct of a police officer or member of police staff, even if it did not take place in relation to you;
  • How a police force is run such as policing standards or policy. 

Examples of behaviour which could lead to a complaint:  

  • A physical or sexual assault by a police officer or use of excessive force;
  • False imprisonment or being held by the police longer than is necessary;
  • Being subjected to harassment by the police or by an individual police officer;
  • Malicious prosecution or police negligence;
  • Trespass on or damage to your property by a police officer or seizure of property and refusal to return it. 

Of course some of these examples are also criminal offences like physical or sexual assault in which case the police are required by law to refer certain matters directly to the IOPC and not to investigate it themselves. 

What behaviour requires a direct referral to the IOPC?

They include ‘complaints and recordable conduct matters that include allegations of conduct which constitutes’:

  • Serious assault;
  • Serious sexual offence;
  • Serious corruption including abuse of position for a sexual purpose or for the purpose of pursuing an improper emotional relationship;
  • Criminal offence or behaviour which is liable to lead to misconduct proceedings and which, in either case, is aggravated by discriminatory behaviour on the grounds of a person’s race, sex, religion or other status identified;
  • A relevant offence;
  • Complaints or conduct matters which are alleged to have arisen from the same incident as anything falling within these criteria.

How do I record events well enough to gather evidence for a police complaint ?

The aim is to be taken seriously and to get your complaint investigated and not ignored or rejected out of hand. So the more information you can provide the better, with detail about the incident you are complaining about. Don’t just provide a written account but also attach any supporting evidence you might have such as texts, emails, letters, charge sheets, custody records (anyone who has been held in custody is entitled to a copy of their custody record after they have been released, so request it if you weren’t given it). Keep records as quickly as you can after the event so it’s clear in your mind and you include all that’s important and don’t forget things. 

Often you have to be persistent. You might be ignored or refused to start with but don’t give up. Most importantly, keep records of what you do to get the complaint looked into. Keep records of every call you make, every email you send and anything else you do. You might for example take it to your MP for help. Keep and upload all the replies or make a  record if you don’t get a reply. When you take it further you’ll have evidence of all that happened in relation to the investigation. 

What if I want to take legal action against the police?

Can I get compensation? 

If you make a complaint which is upheld, it will help you to make a civil claim (i.e. where the case goes to court) against the police to claim compensation for police misconduct.  A report from a local investigation would also help.  Of course the police may still defend your civil claim even though you’ve made a successful complaint. 

However, complaints upheld for minor infringements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, do not, in themselves, mean that you are entitled to compensation. 

So you will not get compensation for things like:

  • Being refused a drink while in police custody;
  • Delay in being given your statutory phone call;
  • A police officer being rude.

Whereas issues which would get compensation include: 

  • False imprisonment which is the ‘complete deprivation of liberty for any time, however short, without lawful cause’. This can happen for example in the course of a stop and search, on arrest or during questioning; 
  • An assault whether physical or sexual; 
  • Trespass on or damage to property; 
  • The unlawful use of a warrant. 

In these civil cases if you win compensation it can also result in most legal costs being awarded too.

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