Police Officers who Commit Domestic Violence-Related Criminal Offences 1

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1 PUBLIC DOCUMENT Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland Police Officers who Commit Domestic Violence-Related Criminal Offences 1 This is an ACPO policy relating to police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences. Chief officers are encouraged to consider the application of the aims and principles of this policy to all police employees (particularly those who might take primary intervention or evidence collection roles) as appropriate. The ACPO definition of domestic violence is applied throughout this document. ACPO Definition/Best Value Performance Indicator 153 (BVPI) threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or are family members, regardless of gender. Police officers have statutory powers and responsibilities, the police service needs to pay particular attention to safeguarding public confidence and reassurance as well as ensuring victim confidence in responding to domestic violence-related offences committed by police officers. The Police Code of Conduct in Section 1 provides: It is of paramount importance that the public has faith in the honesty and integrity of police officers. In Section 1(a) the Code states that: The primary duties of those who hold the office of constable are the protection of life and property, the preservation of the Queen s peace, and the prevention and detection of criminal offences. To fulfil these duties they are granted extraordinary powers; the public and the police service. Police officers who commit domestic violence-related offences should not be seen or treated as distinct from any other perpetrator and should be investigated and held accountable through the Criminal Justice System in the same way as any other person. 1 Please note that a related ACPO policy: Police staff who are victims of domestic violence is in the process of being drafted and will be subject to consultation in

2 A. Aims The core aims of responding to Police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences are: 1. To protect adult and child victims, potential future victims, members of the public, staff, agencies/organisations and police employees from further violence, serious injury and homicide. 2. To ensure that police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences are held accountable through the criminal justice system and are dealt with appropriately through internal misconduct procedures. 3. To ensure the maintenance of public confidence and the confidence of victims in the policing of domestic violence and the integrity of the service. 1. Protection B. Principles 1. Police forces should demonstrate their commitment to protecting victims, including children and the public, from domestic violence-related criminal offences by holding all offenders of domestic violence-related criminal offences accountable through the Criminal Justice System. 2. The Human Rights Act 1998 gives effect to the European Convention of Human Rights in domestic law. It includes positive obligations on the part of public bodies to safeguard an individual s right to life (Art. 2), an individual s right not to be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment (Art. 3) and the right to private and family life (Art. 8) free from violence and intimidation. The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that the police and other agencies with special powers to protect individuals from violence can be held liable for failure to use those powers (e.g. Osman v UK [1998] and Z and Others v UK [2001]). These obligations are clearly applicable in cases where police officers are alleged to have committed domestic violence-related criminal offences. 2. Screening of Police Applicants 1. Police forces should include screening mechanisms to identify police applicants with a proven history of domestic violence, such as evidence of domestic violence-related criminal cautions/convictions, civil orders/child contact orders with imposed restrictions and any breaches thereof under the Childrens Act

3 The onus is on the applicant to disclose any child contact orders which have restrictions imposed. Restrictions include the withdrawal of contact with a child, supervised contact or a prohibitive steps order and any breaches of such orders. In addition forces should execute their own stringent checks whilst screening applicants by obtaining the afore mentioned child contact orders with the leave of the court where proceedings are not conducted within open court. 2. Applicants with a proven history of domestic violence will not be considered for the office of constable. 3. Reporting 1. Police forces should have support systems to encourage partners, relatives and colleagues of police officer perpetrators of domestic violence to notify the police employer of domestic violence-related criminal-offences and non criminal behaviour. Those reporting should be offered appropriate welfare and support services. 2. Officers that disclose to any member of the police service that they are personally committing domestic violence-related criminal offences are not entitled to confidentiality. Any report of such criminal conduct must be treated as an admission of a crime and investigated as such. 3. Police forces should have a communications system that requires police officers to notify their force of any domestic violence-related civil court orders or child contact restrictions relating to them. 4. Police forces should ensure that a nominated ACPO officer is notified of all allegations of domestic violence-related criminal offences against police officers. The nominated ACPO officer is responsible for the implementation of this policy. 5. Full records should be kept of all reports of domestic violence-related criminal offences committed by police officers, an audit of the process of investigation, decision log and action followed and the outcomes of such cases. 4. Arrest and Detention 1. Police force policies relating to the arrest of alleged domestic violence offenders should be applied in cases when a police officer is the suspect. 2. To safeguard the integrity and effectiveness of the investigation, police forces should ensure that wherever possible officers involved in arrest and detention of police officers alleged to have committed domestic violence-related offences are not known personally to the suspect (this should not exclude officers from arresting known colleagues at the incident). For example, the alleged offender should be held in custody in a different police station to that in which he/she is based. 3

4 5. Criminal Investigations and Internal Investigations 1. It is the decision and duty of the police service to investigate a police officer for domestic violence-related criminal offences and the decision of the CPS to prosecute police officer domestic violence offenders. It is not the decision of the victim or any other person who reports the offence. 2. Professional Standards/Complaints and Discipline Departments should always be notified of all cases in which domestic violence-related criminal offences and noncriminal domestic violence behaviour is alleged. The criminal investigation should always have primacy over internal investigations. 3. Steps including risk assessment and safety planning should be taken to protect victims and witnesses from intimidation and further victimisation. 4. Where during an investigation is on-going or where prima facie evidence exists, consideration should be given to the suspension of the suspect. In some circumstances risk assessment process may indicate that the safety of the victim and/or children would be better safeguarded by a decision not to suspend and to maintain alleged offenders in a controlled working environment. Decisions made relating to suspension should be communicated to the victim for safety planning purposes. Such cases give rise to a clear need to consider the public confidence implications of a decision not to suspend. 5. Where a decision is made not to suspend, police forces must consider restricted duties such as excluding the officer from policing any matters relating to domestic violence, child protection and sexual offences. 6. Police forces should ensure that systems are in place to uphold the integrity of all investigations from first reporting onwards. This should include notification procedures and appropriate restrictions on access to records. 7. Police forces should ensure that arrangements are in place to ensure that personnel carrying out supervision and investigation of domestic violence-related offences committed by police officers are of an appropriate rank and appropriately trained and skilled to ensure that investigations can be carried out effectively and without bias. This may include consideration of deploying officers from a neighbouring division or seeking the assistance of another force as described in (11). 6. Welfare needs of police officers and their families 1. Police forces should ensure fulfilment of their obligations as employers by establishing systems to safeguard the welfare needs of police officers and their families (including partners and children) in cases where the officer is alleged to have committed domestic violence-related offences. 2. In accordance with Home Office and ACPO policy, police forces should not be involved in mediation between an alleged domestic violence offender and other family members. The welfare needs of police officers and their families should be dealt with separately. 4

5 3. Consideration needs to be given to ensuring the privacy of victims, as appropriate. Police officers who disclose committing criminal offences to welfare departments are not entitled to confidentiality (see 3.2). 7. Risk Assessment and Management Processes 1. Police forces should establish systems to assess and manage risk in each individual case in which a police officer is alleged to have committed a domestic violence-related criminal offence/s. 2. Police forces may decide to develop a mechanism for different internal departments (including ACPO, supervisors, professional standards, domestic violence specialists, child protection specialists, personnel, welfare and occupational health services etc) and any other relevant external agencies to assess and manage risk and agree an action plan. 8. Domestic Violence-Related Criminal Convictions 1. In cases where a criminal prosecution results in a conviction of a police officer for a domestic violence-related offence/s, there should be a presumption towards dismissal. 2. Where the misconduct panel decides not to dismiss, the misconduct panel should provide a report to the chief officer outlining the exceptional circumstances and the rationale behind the decision. 3. The misconduct panel should take into account the following when preparing the report: - Protecting adult and child victims, potential future victims, members of the public and police staff from the effects of further violence, serious injury and homicide. - Ensuring that police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences are held accountable. - Upholding public confidence in the integrity of the police service as a whole - Upholding public confidence and the confidence of victims in reporting domestic violence and in the police response to domestic violence. 4. Where a decision is made not to dismiss an officer, the misconduct panel should consider the need for restricted duties. Misconduct panels should consider recommending the exclusion of the officer from duties relating to domestic violence, child protection or sexual offences. 9. Domestic Violence-related behaviour that does not result in a criminal conviction 5

6 1. Following a full criminal investigation and in appropriate cases a criminal prosecution, the outcome of suspected domestic violence-related criminal offences may not be a criminal conviction. In such cases, a misconduct panel hearing should consider any new evidence not featured in the trial and/or consider any outstanding misconduct issues that were not the subject of the criminal trial gathered during a professional standards/complaints and discipline investigation. The misconduct panel should decide whether there has been a breach of s12 of the Code of Conduct proven on the balance of probabilities. 2. Professional standards/complaints and misconduct investigations should include information about the following issues: Evidence that the officer subject to the allegations has brought the force in to disrepute by virtue of The Police Reform Act 2002 s12 (b). Existence of any domestic violence-related civil orders (under the Family Law Act 1996 or Protection from Harassment Act 1997) or child contact restrictions against the alleged offender and any recorded breaches of such orders/restrictions(either disclosed by the alleged offender or obtained with the leave of the court on the premise that proceedings were conducted within Judges chambers) History of domestic violence in current and former relationships, including reports to any agencies including the police 3. Misconduct panels considering outstanding misconduct issues and or new evidence should consider as in cases where the officer fails to meet the appropriate standard, the full range of disciplinary options, including dismissal, should be considered. Where dismissal is not considered appropriate, the misconduct panel should provide a report to the chief officer outlining the exceptional circumstances and the rationale behind the decision as described in 8(3) and 8(4) above. 10. Victims of police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences 1. Police forces should ensure that victims of police officers who commit domestic violence-related criminal offences are given the same level of service as other victims of domestic violence. They should have access to the same level of police support as provided to all victims. If necessary, arrangements should be made to access this from another police division or police force (as described in (11)). 2. Police forces should also ensure that such victims are given a full explanation of the police force policy and are kept fully informed about the progress of internal investigation and misconduct processes. Police personnel providing such information should be of an appropriate rank and appropriately skilled and trained. Consideration should be given to specialist domestic violence/child protection 6

7 and/or family liaison officers assisting a senior ranking officer in providing such information and support. 11. Inter Force Arrangements 1. Police forces should establish systems of information sharing and co-operation in cases in which domestic violence-related criminal offences committed by police officers are reported to, investigated by and prosecuted within a force which is different from the employer force. 2. In some cases, such as those involving senior police officers as alleged offenders, forces may wish to seek the assistance of personnel from another force in carrying out the investigation. 3. Police forces should establish systems to ensure that victims of police officers who are suspected of committing domestic violence-related offences have access to appropriate police support, if necessary from a specialist officer from a neighbouring force. C. Requirements Mandatory Referrals to The IPCC By virtue of the Police Reform Act 2002, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ( IPCC ) will have the most serious category of cases referred to it whether or not a complaint has been made. The IPCC have the authority to independently investigate, set the direction or supervise a police investigation. Any harm or injury to a person in relation to which a complaint alleging conduct resulting in serious injury or any conduct resulting in serious injury which is more serious than assault occasioning actual bodily harm contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, should be referred to the Commission in accordance with paragraphs 4(1)(a) and 13(1)(a) of schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act

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