Our review process

This section helps you to understand the stages we go through when someone contacts our office with a complaint about the police.

Every case is different so the way we deal with your complaint and the length of time it takes us to complete our review depends on a number of factors, for example, the complexity of your complaint or the volume of case papers we are given by the police body involved.  We aim to assess complaints as quickly as possible and to finalise cases within an average of six months from receipt of the papers from the police body.

Requesting a review

If your complaint has already been dealt with by the police organisation through its internal process, we will ask you to complete an application form to help us understand your complaint better.  You can complete this form online or you can download a form and send it to us by post or email.  If you haven't made your complaint to the police organisation concerned, we will direct you to the appropriate department in order to do so.  The police organisation must have the opportunity to investigate your complaint before we are able to look at it.

On the application form we will ask you to list the complaints you have made to the police that you would like the PIRC to review.  So that your complaint can be dealt with quickly and efficiently, it would be helpful if you could be specific when detailing your complaints on your application.  By signing the application form or clicking the digital signature box, you are agreeing that we can ask the police body to provide us with any information it has about your complaint.

You can supply additional information to support your application, such as copies of correspondence with the police body in question.  Please let us know if you would like any of your documents to be returned to you and we will arrange for copies to be made.  If we need further information to help us consider your complaint, or if your complaint is unclear, we will let you know what else we need you to submit.

Once we have received your completed application and established that your complaint falls within our power to consider, we will ask the police body you are complaining about to send us all the available information about your case.  When this information has been provided, your case will be allocated to a Review Officer who will let you know as soon as possible if we are able to review your complaint.  For further information on what we can and cannot review, see how to request a review.

Reviewing your complaint

The PIRC operates a scheme of delegation for its reviews.  The Commissioner is involved personally in reviews which are considered to raise serious issues. The Commissioner delegates to senior staff responsibility for dealing with cases which are not considered to fall into this category. Some reviews are concluded by way of a decision letter which will normally be issued by the Review Officer responsible for the case, subject to the approval of senior staff. All decisions made in reports or decision letters are final whether they are made by the Commissioner personally or made or approved by senior staff.

Following an initial assessment of your case, your Review Officer will write to you to confirm the complaints that you wish to be reviewed.  This is your opportunity to advise us if we are not considering everything that you feel is relevant.

During the review, we will consider the facts of your case, examining all the information provided by you and the police body.  We will look at how the police body reached its conclusion, review the evidence on which the conclusion was based and form a view on whether the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard.

Your Review Officer will keep you regularly updated on their progress during your review and will be in contact at least once every six weeks.  Download our Standards of Service.

When your Review Officer has completed their initial work on your case, their review will be checked by a senior member of staff as part of our quality assurance process. Where appropriate, the Commissioner will then also consider your case. 

The outcome of your review

This will be explained in either a report or a decision letter (both known as a Complaint Handling Review or CHR). In either case, this will outline:

  • your complaint
  • the background to the complaint
  • what the police body did to deal with your complaint
  • our consideration of the way it was handled
  • our conclusions and, where appropriate, any recommendations to the police for action

The outcome of the PIRC's reviews are often published, fully anonymised, on this website.  View published reviews.