Monday, March 19, 2012

Independent and impartial.....

In recent years, there have been many incidents where police forces both civilian and especially the military police have been criticised for what appears to be a lack of independence from those who they are investigating.

It was documented in the Stockwell Report that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and it's investigators were deliberately excluded from the start of the investigation into the fatal shooting of John Charles De Menezes in July 2005, which to some would be even more of a brazen act by the Metropolitan Police Service as the IPCC was established through the Police Reform Act 2002.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (it's members being Canadian Forces Military Policemen and women) were openly criticised in 2010 for not being fully and effectively independent from the military chain of command when it was reported that they were somewhat reluctant to investigate that the policies of the Canadian Armed Forces were allegedly leading to the torture of prisoner's at the hands of Afghan Forces.

The Royal Military Police have recently also come under heavy criticism in two cases, after an investigation conducted by Greater Manchester Police led to a report that their investigation into torture allegations following the Battle of Danny Boy in 2004 was inadequate. It was documented that the Service Chain of Command would not release servicemen for interview and that the Special Investigation Branch (RMP) had allegedly failed to collect evidence due to disagreements with the chain of command. This led to a very senior Service Policeman being described as a 'very unsatisfactory witness' as it was suspected he may have asked or possibly ordered other service policeman to lie on oath.

It appears that modern policing is coming closer and closer to complete independence in the investigative process. To mention the Service Police of the British Armed Services specifically, the introduction of the Armed Forces Act 2011 means that they will now be inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to establish whether or not the investigations undertaken are independent from the Service Chain of Command. Also Service Policemen of Provost Marshal rank will now report directly to the Defence Council, showing greater independence from the chain of command.

However having said that, it would appear that there still appears to be one aspect that remains unchanged, and remains fundamentally different from other policing environments. To hold a Service person in custody, for the purposes of carrying out an expeditious investigation, a Service Policeman still has to report and seek authorisation from that service person's Commanding Officer (who can order the arrested person to be released from custody under Section 98 of the AFA 2006), therefore, it would be appear, preventing the investigative process from being fully independent.

One of the most important principles of policing is that the investigations undertaken have to be independent and impartial. Robert Peel's fifth principle of Policing is:

'Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.'

You can't argue with that, because in your personal opinion impartiality is one of the most important aspects of an effective investigation.

'The military should hold itself to the highest standards at all times. If you are in these countries trying to take the high moral ground, then you have to uphold your ethics, particularly if you want to change the way other people live.'

Mark Cann, British Forces Foundation.


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