Director of police watchdog at centre of Chris Kaba scandal charged with child sex offences

Former Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) director general Michael Lockwood
Former Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) director general Michael Lockwood - PA

The police watchdog that investigated the firearms officer charged with Chris Kaba’s murder is itself in turmoil after its boss was forced to quit over child sex allegations.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been overseen by an ‘acting’ director general for almost a year. Its director general Michael Lockwood was forced to resign at the start of December last year over an allegation of underage sex in the 1980s.

Lockwood, 64, was subsequently charged with six counts of indecent assault and three counts of rape against a girl under the age of 16. He denies the charges.

IOPC dogged by controversy since inception

The IOPC has been dogged by controversy almost since its inception just five years ago. Its predecessor the Independent Police Complaints Commission had lost the confidence and trust of the public, and its death knell was sealed by a scathing parliamentary report that concluded it was overwhelmed and “woefully underequipped” to deal with serious complaints against the police.

The IOPC has in turn faced calls for it to be scrapped. Rank and file police officers have complained they now fear the “legal processes” that follow tackling a dangerous incident - rather than necessarily the incident itself. Firearms officers in particular are concerned that they are being treated the same as common criminals in situations where weapons have been fired.

Stresses and rigours of the job not taken into account

The stresses and rigours of the job, they complain, are not being taken into account when investigations are pursued by the IOPC and files passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, which ultimately decides if officers should be charged with crimes.

Officers have also complained that investigations into their conduct are taking too long, leaving their careers in the balance while complaints are investigated.

The IOPC also faced calls for it to be scrapped from victims of the Metropolitan Police’s catastrophic investigation into claims - subsequently proved to be utterly false - that a VIP ring operated in Westminster, involving a former prime minister, home secretary and head of the army, that murdered and sexually abused children.

The IOPC initially cleared Steve Rodhouse, who was the senior Met officer in charge of Operation Midland, of any wrongdoing. But it was forced into a u-turn and in May this year announced he was being investigated for gross misconduct. Carl Beech, a fantasist who made up the original allegations, was jailed for 18 years for perverting the course of justice.

Harvey Proctor, who was investigated by police over Beech’s malicious claims, said on Sunday: “I am still dubious about the IOPC. I am still dubious about the hearing being faced by Rodhouse. My fear is the time this all takes. I am worried we will still be here in two years.”

Operation Midland ran from 2014 to 2016

Operation Midland ran from 2014 until 2016 when it was wound up after being widely discredited. The fact officers are still being investigated so many years on will add fuel to claims the IOPC is not capable of dealing with the thousands of complaints made against officers every year.

The IOPC completed its investigation into the shooting of Chris Kaba in March this year, six months after he was shot in the vehicle he was driving in London. The CPS announced last week that a police officer, who has not been named, had been charged with his murder.

In a statement last week, the IOPC said: “It’s important now that criminal proceedings are able to run their course. We would reiterate the importance of not reporting, commenting or sharing information online which could in any way prejudice those proceedings.”

Sources inside the IOPC pointed out that decisions on charging are taken by the CPS and that its job is to simply investigate the circumstances. A source said it was the Home Secretary that appointed the new director general to replace Lockwood and that the IOPC could not be blamed for any delays in that process. The source also pointed out that its parameters for investigating officers for misconduct, gross misconduct and criminal offences were set by the Government.

In August this year, the IOPC said referrals to the body had increased by a third in just two years, meaning an additional 1,500 cases had to be looked at at least initially. Its predecessor the IPCC received 3,200 referrals a year in 2014 compared to more than 6,200 to the IOPC in the 12 months ending in April 2023. The organisation said the increases were against a “backdrop of a reduced IOPC budget”.