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Committee for Home Affairs progressing review of police complaints legislation

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Tuesday 12 March 2024

The Committee for Home Affairs will take a policy letter to the States Assembly before the end of this political term seeking to update the police complaints law.

Work has been taking place to review the Police Complaints (Guernsey) Law, 2008, which the Committee recognises has limitations which can cause frustration for both complainants and Guernsey Police.

A review is needed to promote confidence in the complaints process and in the police generally and ensure that matters are dealt with proportionately.  Where complainants are assured that their concerns are listened to and acted upon, opportunities for learning and service improvement are taken and serious matters investigated.

As in the UK, it remains the Committee's view that the police are the most appropriate body to deal with most complaints against officers - in Guernsey this is through the Professional Standards Department - however, it believes the Police Complaints Commission's role should be expanded.

Deputy Rob Prow, President of the Committee for Home Affairs, said:

'We have an excellent police service but it is a fact that when dealing with the sorts of very challenging matters officers have to on a daily basis, there will be occasions where members of the public they have encountered will feel aggrieved or have cause to submit a complaint. The police would acknowledge that it's impossible for them to always get everything right, so it's incredibly important that we have a robust process in place so that all parties can have confidence that complaints are addressed fairly. It's important to both the committee and police for public trust to be maintained and our current legislation was agreed 16 years ago so is overdue for a review.

'It is important to highlight that a complaint in and of itself is not a sign of wrongdoing, which in a small community like Guernsey I know it can be misconstrued or reported as such. People have an absolute right to submit complaints, about service delivery or the conduct of officers, and that must always be maintained. We must ensure that legitimate complaints are robustly investigated. However, there is no current mechanism for an initial assessment of complaints to be made to establish the validity of the complaint, or for example if it is vexatious, as there is in other jurisdictions such as the UK. The Committee's proposals will seek to address this.

'We also strongly believe that the Committee should not have an active role in the complaints process and convene as the "Appropriate Authority", as under the current law we are required to oversee the process for complaints against senior officers. We think this responsibility should be removed from the Committee so there is greater independence.'

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