Referral to the IPCC is an important part of ensuring independence, accountability and integrity of the police complaints system. This page provides an overview on referrals to the IPCC; full details are available in our statutory guidance.
Complaints that must be referred to the IPCC:
- allegations that the conduct complained of led to someone dying or being seriously injured
- complaints which fall within the mandatory referral criteria (see below)
Conduct matters that must be referred to the IPCC:
- conduct that has led to someone dying or being seriously injured
- matters which fall within the mandatory referral criteria (see below)
Appropriate authorities must also make referrals when the IPCC requires the matter to be referred. This is regardless of whether the matter is already being investigated or if the IPCC has considered it previously.
Referral of death or serious injury (DSI) matters:
All DSI matters must be referred to the IPCC.
A DSI matter means any circumstances in which a person has died or sustained serious injury and:
- had been arrested or was otherwise detained in custody at the time
- had contact of any kind with a person serving with the police that may have caused or contributed to the death or serious injury.
Mandatory referral criteria
The appropriate authority must refer complaints and conduct matters involving:
- serious assault
- serious sexual offence
- serious corruption
- criminal offence or behaviour that would lead to misconduct proceedings and that is aggravated by discriminatory behaviour on the grounds of a person’s race, sex, religion or other status identified in the IPCC Statutory Guidance
- certain types of criminal offence (known as relevant offences)
- complaints or conduct matters which are alleged to have arisen from the same incident as anything falling within these criteria
If you have a question about whether your complaint has been or will be referred to the IPCC, contact the organisation dealing with the complaint.
When we receive a referral, we will consider the matter and any other information available. Having taken into account the seriousness of the case and the public interest, we then decide on the method of investigation:
- local investigation
- supervised investigation
- managed investigation
- independent investigation
An act of parliament that provides the core framework of police powers to combat crime and provide codes of practice for the exercise of these powers.
Leads and manages the development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The body that represents the interests of all police constables, sergeants, and inspectors.
Department within a police force that deals with complaints and conduct matters.
The average is calculated using the individual results of the forces in that most similar force group.
An investigation carried out by IPCC staff.
Carried out by the police under their own direction and control. The IPCC sets the terms of reference and receives the investigation report when it is complete. Complainants have a right of appeal following a supervised investigation (unless it is an investigation into a direction and control matter).
This act sets out how the police complaints system operates.
How a police force is run, for example policing standards or policing policy.
An investigation carried out by the police under the direction and control of the IPCC.
An intelligence-led agency with law enforcement powers, it is also responsible for reducing the harm that is caused to people and communities by serious organised crime.
Investigations carried out entirely by the police. Complainants have a right of appeal following a local investigation (unless it is an investigation into a direction and control matter).
A person is adversely affected is he or she suffers any form of loss or damage, distress or inconvenience, if he or she is put in danger or is otherwise unduly put at risk of being adversely affected.
IPCC guidance to the police service and police authorities on the handling of complaints.
Parameters within which an investigation is conducted.
This could be the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Common Council for the City of London, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
A flexible process for dealing with complaints that can be adapted to the needs of the complainant. It may involve, for example, providing information and explanation, an apology, or a meeting between the complainant and the officer complained about.
Consists of a chair, two deputy chairs, and commissioners – each responsible for specific police forces, guardianship work and individual cases.
Disapplication means that a police force may handle a complaint in whatever manner it thinks fit, including not dealing with it under complaints legislation. This may only take place in certain limited circumstances where the complaint fits one or more of the grounds for disapplication set out in law.
The ending of an ongoing investigation into a complaint, conduct matter or DSI matter. An investigation may only be discontinued if it meets one or more of the grounds for discontinuance set out in law.
Used to house anyone who has been detained.
Complainants have the right to appeal to the IPCC if a police force did not record their complaint or notify the correct police force if it was made originally to the wrong force.
The purpose of an investigation is to establish the facts behind a complaint, conduct matter, or DSI matter; and reach conclusions. An investigator looks into a complaint and produces a report that details the outcome of each allegation. There are four types of investigation: local investigation, supervised investigation, managed investigation and independent investigation.
A person who makes a complaint about the conduct of someone serving with the police.
The type of behaviour being complained about. A single complaint case can have one or many allegations attached.
An independent judicial officer, the coroner enquires into deaths reported to him/her.
A record is made of a complaint, giving it formal status as a complaint under the Police Reform Act 2002.
No further action may be taken with regard to a complaint if the complainant decides to retract their allegation(s).
Casework involves assessing appeals. Casework staff also have a role in overseeing the police complaints system to help ensure police forces handle complaints in the best possible way.
The IPCC must be notified about specific types of complaint or incidents to be able to decide how they should be dealt with.
Conduct includes acts, omissions, statements and decisions (whether actual, alleged or inferred). For example: language used and the manner or tone of communications.
An application by a complainant for a police decision to be reviewed.