Commissioner’s hope to ‘restore faith’ in police

Julia Mulligan
Julia Mulligan

A GROUND-BREAKING overhaul of the way in which complaints against North Yorkshire’s police force are handled is being drawn up.

The aim is to help repair the public’s fractured confidence after its former chief constable stepped down over a nepotism scandal.

Moves are being considered to set up a separate unit to investigate the public’s official complaints against North Yorkshire Police in what is thought to be the first system of its kind in the country.

It is hoped the radical shift away from the culture where the nation’s police service is largely accountable for itself will help bolster the public’s perception of the North Yorkshire force. It has endured the most turbulent period in its recent history which saw former chief constable Grahame Maxwell retire after admitting gross misconduct for nepotism.

The revamp of the complaints procedure to make it more transparent is one of the most ambitious elements of a four-year vision unveiled today by North Yorkshire’s newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan.

She has published a draft of her first policing plan since being elected in November, and a public consultation is being conducted before the document is finalised at the end of March. She will undertake a “webchat” with the public at noon today as part of the consultation.

Mrs Mulligan admitted North Yorkshire Police had endured “dark times” but one of her main aims in the proposed policing plan is to increase the public’s confidence and satisfaction in the force.

She said: “I was not involved with the force at the time, but I saw what was happening from an external viewpoint like other members of the public. It is an opportunity to say that we recognise there were problems and we are taking the necessary steps to address them.”

While the exact make-up of the proposed complaints investigation unit has yet to be finalised, Mrs Mulligan has already been in talks with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the proposals.

She acknowledged the current system is “confusing and complicated” and the IPCC has a backlog of cases which is leaving the public frustrated that complaints are not being dealt with effectively.

Figures released by the IPCC in October revealed there were almost 500 complaints made against North Yorkshire Police, although there had been a fall on the previous 12 months.

Mrs Mulligan stressed North Yorkshire Police ranks as the best performing force nationally for dealing with complaints locally and ensuring the cases are not referred through to the IPCC.

She admitted, however, the draft policing plan has been published at a time when the North Yorkshire force is facing up to major challenges to counter intense financial pressures amid the Government’s austerity drive. Policing budgets have already been slashed by £13.5m and at least another £5m will have to be saved by 2016/17.

The plan is also aimed at bolstering policing in rural communities, by introducing “parish constables” and doubling the number of special constables and volunteers over the next five years. Operations will continue to be streamlined through closer working with neighbouring forces and pooling resources with other public sector organisations.

The nepotism scandal that engulfed North Yorkshire Police saw an independent disciplinary panel hand Mr Maxwell a final written warning after he admitted unfairly helping both a relative of former deputy chief constable Adam Briggs and a family member of his own to circumvent a recruitment process for new police officers.

The force currently now has a temporary chief constable, Tim Madgwick, who took up the role in May last year after Mr Maxwell stepped down.