Independent Police Complaints Commission
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IPCC guidance to police forces when referring allegations of the abuse of position for sexual purpose or to pursue an improper relationship

Following today’s report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) can confirm that all police forces in England and Wales, at the IPCC’s request, should now be referring allegations of abuse of position for sexual purpose in accordance with updated guidance.

The guidance now contains mandatory referral criteria which specifically reference abuse of position for sexual purpose, and abuse of position for the purpose of pursuing an improper relationship under the general heading of serious corruption. The update seeks to clarify, and expand upon, existing guidance to ensure such cases are brought to the attention of the IPCC.

The update follows a report, in December 2016, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC now HMICFRS). The report raised concerns that police forces do not always recognise these issues as forms of serious corruption. As a result, the IPCC instructed all police forces in England and Wales to retrospectively refer allegations which meet the criteria, and to ensure any new cases which met these criteria were referred to the IPCC. All 42 forces responded to the IPCC within the requested deadline.

The new criteria are available via the IPCC website

Since April 2014, the IPCC has received 320 referrals relating to the abuse of police powers for sexual gains. Of the total referrals received since April 2014, 57 required investigation (31 independent, eight managed and 18 supervised) of which 33 remain ongoing at this time (19 independent, 4 managed and 10 supervised).

There were 103 referrals in 2016/17 and 66 received since April this year.

IPCC Chair Anne Owers, said: “Police personnel who abuse their position and exploit people in vulnerable positions for sexual gratification have no place in policing. In some cases, victims of sexual abuse or violent crime are being approached by an officer, someone they should be able to trust, with the intention of beginning an improper relationship. This is unacceptable.

“For that reason, it is important that all allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation are referred to the IPCC to determine whether they require independent investigation. The 2016 HMIC report showed that this was not happening in a significant number of cases, despite our best efforts. As a result, the regulations were changed to make clear that all such cases must be referred to us.

“We have now produced guidelines to assist forces in reporting these matters. They were produced in consultation with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing, who have also produced their own strategy and guidance. Recently, we wrote to all forces to share our updated guidelines and to reinforce the importance of recognising and referring such cases.”

Notes to editors:

Alleged conduct which could constitute an allegation of the statutory offence of ‘corruption or other improper exercise of police powers and privileges’ also falls within the scope of the ‘serious corruption’ mandatory referral criteria, and must be referred to the IPCC. This is created by section 26 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

The updated document, entitled Operational advice note – mandatory referral critieria update, April 2017, can be found via this link

IPCC investigation criteria can be found here:

The HMICFRS report can be found here: is external)

Case examples:

Walters – West Mids -
Davies – South Wales -
Gibson – Merseyside -
Rushton – Staffs -
McMillan – Merseyside -

Channel website:

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