I reported a crime to the police but they did not properly investigate my case – what can I do?
The police have a number of duties and legal obligations when an allegation of criminal activity is reported to them. However, many individuals are left disappointed when they are informed by the police that they cannot take any further action against the perpetrator of the alleged offence. This may sometimes be due to the fact that there is not enough evidence in the case or it may be due to failures in the investigative process, for example, not obtaining or overlooking aspects of key evidence.
If you reported an incident to the police and have concerns about the way the case was handled, depending on the circumstances, you may have a number of options available to you.
Complaint to the IOPC
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is tasked with overseeing complaints against the police in England and Wales. If you believe that a police force, or a particular police officer, has not acted appropriately in recording or investigating a crime you have reported, you may complain directly to the police force involved or in some cases, to the IOPC. Complaints should ordinarily be made within 12 months of the incident you are complaining of. If the police’s response to the complaint is unsatisfactory, you may be able to appeal to the IOPC.
Complaints must be dealt with in accordance with certain rules and guidance. A complaint against the police force may not necessarily result in the crime being re-investigated however, the police may provide an explanation or apology. In certain circumstances, where police officers have not acted in accordance with their duties, disciplinary action may be taken against them in the form of a misconduct hearing.
Submitting a request for Victim’s Right to Review
The Police Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) gives victims the right to request a review of a police decision not to charge a suspect or not to refer a case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision, in certain circumstances. Only “qualifying decisions” can be challenged via the VRR scheme. Where the police make a qualifying decision, they should advise a victim of crime why the decision was made, how further information can be accessed and how to seek a review of the decision if they wish to do so, including by way of VRR.
Requests for VRR to the police should ordinarily be made no more than 3 months after the date of a decision to take no further action by the police so it’s important to act quickly. It’s also important to consider carefully the basis on which a review is being sought and that adequate information is supplied to the police. Once your request is received, an officer who wasn’t involved in the case will be assigned to review the decision. This may result in the case being reinvestigated or the suspect being charged. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you may be able to apply to the High Court for Judicial Review, though this is subject to strict time limits.
Claim against the police
In certain circumstances, the police’s failure to investigate serious offences may amount to a breach of the Human Rights Act. This is because the police must carry out effective investigations into allegations of criminal offences, especially the most serious offences. In particular, Article 3 of the Human Rights Act imposes an obligation on the authorities to take measures designed to ensure protection against inhuman or degrading treatment administered by others.
This is what happened in the recent and notable case Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and another  UKSC 11, in which two victims of John Worboys, the now convicted sex offender, claimed compensation from the Metropolitan Police for their failure to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. A later review of the case found that Worboys may have attacked over 100 women. Some examples of the failures noted in this case included the following:
- Failure to promptly interview a key witness
- Failure to collect CCTV evidence
- Failure to link the numerous complaints made against the suspect
- Failure to conduct searches of Worboys’ house.
Accordingly, you may be able to seek redress from the Courts, requiring the police to take action and / or claim compensation from the police owing to their failures. Where the police’s conduct caused you further harm, such as physical or psychiatric injuries, you may also be entitled to make additional claims against the police.
If you would like to take action against the police in respect of their decision making regarding a crime you reported, contact Saunders Law who will be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action.