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The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) replaced the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) on 1 April 2004. The Commission is responsible for securing public confidence in the police complaints system, and its main functions are:

• Overseeing the system

• Handling appeals from people who are not satisfied with the way the police have dealt with their complaints.

• Investigating the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct itself

This ability to carry out its own investigations is a key difference between the IPCC and the PCA. There are three kinds of matters which can be investigated under the system. These are:

• “Complaints” about the conduct of a person serving with the police

• “Conduct matters”, where no complaint has been made, but there is an indication that a police officer may have committed a criminal offence or behaved in a way which would justify disciplinary matters

• “Death and serious injury matters” where there has been no complaint or conduct matter, but where a person has died or sustained a serious injury following certain kinds of contact with the police.

In June 2012 the IPCC submitted evidence to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry which identified a number of possible new powers. It had previously discussed these with the Government. One of them was an additional power to compel police officers to attend interviews.

Currently officers can only be required to attend if they themselves are the subject of a criminal or misconduct investigation.

On 12 September 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel published a report on the 1989 football stadium disaster which led to the deaths of 96 people. Amongst other things, the Panel’s report found evidence of extensive alteration of police records and attempts to “impugn the reputations of the deceased”.

In its response to the Independent Panel’s report, the IPCC noted that it was not able to investigate all aspects of the police’s conduct. This was because when the IPCC took over from the PCA, a “Transitional Provisions” Order set out that certain old cases could not be investigated under the new framework.

Consequently the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill would provide for regulations to give the Independent Police Complaints Commission two new powers:

• The first would be to require a serving police officer to attend an interview as a witness. This new power would be introduced through regulations.

• The second new power would be to set aside the relevant articles of the Transitional Provisions Order in “exceptional circumstances” so that the IPCC could investigate certain old cases where the PCA had already been involved.

The Shadow Home Secretary has reportedly welcomed the Bill, having previously called for these and other changes to be made to the police complaints system.

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