Full disclosure required in the consideration of complaints

The claimant complained that he was subject to religious discrimination when detained under the Terrorism Act 2000.

R (on the application of Shayab Miah) v Independent Police Complaints Commission (1) Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (2)

Court of Appeal (Rupert Jackson LJ, Sales LJ, Flaux LJ)

14 December 2017

Executive summary

The claimant complained that he was subject to religious discrimination when detained under the Terrorism Act 2000 (the Act). Although there was no requirement under the Act to inform him of the reasons for his detention and questioning at the time of his detention, the complaint investigating officer (IO), in rejecting the complaint, had given no reasons for the arrest and detention in his report. The Court of Appeal ruled that the report should have given reasons, so that the appropriate authority (the Commissioner) could properly determine its response to the complaint. If information was sensitive and harmed the public interest such as national security, it could be redacted before disclosure.

Background and procedure

The claimant is a British Muslim of Asian ethnicity. He was stopped at Heathrow airport on his return from India on 30 August 2009 under the Act. This allows for random stops and reasons do not have to be stated, and means that sensitive intelligence information need not be revealed.

The claimant complained that his detention amounted to religious discrimination. The IO did not uphold that complaint but did not explain that the claimant’s passport had had a tag placed on it, why that had been done or the reasons for detention and questioning.

The claimant appealed to the IPCC that insufficient information had been provided about the substance of the investigation. The IPCC considered that enough information had been given. The claimant challenged that decision by means of judicial review.

Hickinbottom J at first instance held that a finding of no evidence of discrimination was sufficient. The IPCC had also been entitled to conclude that non-disclosure was necessary on grounds of national security. The claimant then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Decision

The Court of Appeal was told that the IO’s report as disclosed to the claimant had in fact been the full and unredacted version of that report as provided by the IO to the appropriate authority, here the Commissioner.

The court ruled that Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and the relevant IPCC guidance made it clear that the IO’s report should be full and complete when submitted to the Commissioner for determination of the appropriate authority’s response to the complaint. It was not being disclosed at that stage so no issues of public interest and redaction arose. The findings in the report were, therefore, inadequate. The claimant had not been given adequate information about the findings of the investigation, and the Commissioner could not have made a proper assessment of the IO’s report on the very limited information that provided.

The fact that the Act did not require the grounds for detention to be explained to a suspect had no bearing on the content of the IO’s report. Full findings had to be given in the report submitted to the appropriate authority. After that stage, and before disclosure to a complainant, its contents could be redacted.

The court agreed that the harm test for disclosure had been correctly applied by the Hickinbottom J but it was still necessary for the appropriate authority and the IPCC to consider full reasons in a full IO’s report. The net result might be the same, that the claimant would not receive the information explaining the grounds for detention, but the appropriate authority’s decision-making had to be fully informed and follow the correct procedure.

Comment

The statutory framework of the Police Reform Act requires the full and proper consideration of complaints. It is therefore necessary for public confidence and transparency that an appropriate authority has all relevant information in reaching its decision. Redaction of sensitive information, before disclosure to a complainant, comes at a later stage in the process.

For further information or to discuss any of the issues in this update, please contact Matthew Foden, Solicitor on 0151 242 9455 or email matthew.foden@weightmans.com.

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