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Change needed in the way IPCC investigates deaths

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has stated that it must reform the way it investigates deaths, signalling changes in approach and procedure, including ensuring the effective engagement of families.

The report follows a wide-ranging review, which was launched in autumn 2012, in response to a number of critical cases and feedback from families, individuals and organisations. The findings focus on independence, the conduct of investigations, and engagement with families and police officers. 

Earlier this month the IPCC launched a consultation on draft statutory guidance on police post-incident management, designed to achieve best evidence in investigations of deaths or serious injury.

Other actions to improve the way it investigates death include strengthening the role of commissioners and increasing the diversity of staff; developing internal and external expertise in areas such as mental health, discrimination, scene management and forensic science; improving engagement with families; and ensuring the police officers under investigation are kept informed about progress and timescale as far as is possible.

Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said: “This publication of this report has come at a critical time for the IPCC, as we begin a period of major change and growth. This review has helped to guide the changes we have already made and those that we are planning.

“It is a model for the way we want to continue to engage with those affected by our work, and draw on outside expertise. But these changes are not just about processes and guidance. They need to be rooted in a culture of independence and quality assurance, recognising that those directly affected are at the heart of what we do.”

The review began with a written consultation and included interviews and focus groups with staff and external stakeholders, including bereaved families. An external reference group was also set up to advise on the process. 

As part of the review, the IPCC commissioned NatCen Social Research to carry out independent research into the views and experiences of bereaved families, IPCC staff and commissioners, police officers and others so that people who might not be willing to provide views directly to the IPCC could feed into the review through an independent organisation. NatCen’s report of their findings has also been published today alongside the IPCC review.

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