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Solicitors reaction to new police code of ethics

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Questions remain about whether a new code of ethics will help restore public confidence in the police force. 

The College of Policing has set out the standards of behaviour that the public can expect from officers and civilian staff, following a series of high-profile scandals.

The code, which was presented to Parliament this week, will apply to all 43 forces in England and Wales.

But some believe the code, based around nine core principles such as honesty and accountability, is not far removed from the existing standards of professional behaviour.

Gemma Vine, a solicitor within Lester Morrill’s civil liberties department, who specialises in actions against the police, is sceptical about whether it will do much to rebuild trust or hold officers to account.

“It is good news that the police seem to be taking this drop in public confidence seriously however I have concerns that this new Code of Conduct doesn’t appear to have much substance,” she said.

“It is often the case that when a complaint is being made about an officer as a result of his or her behaviour it is the complainant’s responsibility to prove that it is more likely than not that the incident took place and if the police complaint system remains the same are we actually going to be able to do that?

“In 90% of cases, it’s the complainant’s word against an officer’s where there are no independent witnesses and in those cases the force, who are essentially investigating themselves are very unlikely to uphold that complaint.

“In my experience the vast majority of people who have lost faith in the police are those who have unfortunately been on the receiving end of an officers unprofessional conduct and when the complaint system then lets them down it is very difficult for that faith to be restored. ”