Young people’s rights explained in new guide to police complaints system

Published: 03 Jul 2020

With recent research highlighting only around half of young people are confident police will deal fairly with their complaint, the IOPC youth panel today launched new guidance to support young people and explain their rights.

The guidance provides information on questions young people frequently ask, such as what the IOPC do, how you can make a complaint to police, what to expect and the possible outcomes.

The youth panel, made up of nearly 30 young people from across England and Wales, worked with the IOPC to identify the key elements of the complaints system and present them in ways that make them easily understood by young people.

The guidance will be published on the IOPC website and social media, as well as shared with young people and organisations who work with them.

IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood said: “Young people come into contact with the police in many different circumstances and environments and every interaction will have an impact on their confidence in policing.

“Young people told us they were unsure of their rights, and were not clear how to raise issues if they were unhappy about the way police had dealt with them. Young people understand that police have a job to do, but when they ask for explanations and do not get them or don’t know how to raise a concern, they can feel powerless.

“A recent IOPC survey showed only 52 per cent of young people are confident that complaints are dealt with fairly by police, leaving room for improvement. This guidance has been developed by our youth panel to build young people’s confidence and help them to understand what they can expect."

Youth Panel member Ahmed Ibrahim, said: "Young people’s experience of how police engage with them could affect their future impressions. We hope the Youth Panel’s work will help to provide a better balance to the relationship between young people and police.

“Engaging with over 800 young people across England and Wales, the common themes of powerlessness and a lack of voice among young people were profound. I’m incredibly proud as an IOPC youth advisor to see the launch of the young people’s guide to complaints system, as it directly addresses the long and deep-rooted mistrust and lack of participation by young people in the very system that’s exists to protect them, the complaints system. I look forward to the impact this guide will make towards better trust and confidence amongst youngest members of society.”

As well as working with the IOPC, members of the Youth Panel have been involved in a number of projects. These include working on the Leaders Unlocked survey 'Policing the Pandemic'. This has have received around 4,000 responses and the results will be published shortly. They have also worked with the Youth Justice Board and National Police Chiefs Council to create the following guides for under-18s during the Covid-19 pandemic:

The Youth Panel is supported by social enterprise organisation Leaders Unlocked.


In 2018, our youth panel led 21 events and engaged with 800 young people across England and Wales to seek their views on why confidence in complaining about the police was low and what the barriers to complaining were. Their findings and recommendations to address the issues identified were published in a report IOPC Youth Panel: Key Findings & Recommendations 2019.

The youth panel’s work found that many young people:

  • feel they wouldn't be taken seriously or believed by those in positions of power due to their age and lack of status
  • do not trust those in positions of authority, especially the police
  • from marginalised and minority groups feel they are less likely to be believed and more likely to be discriminated against

The report resulted in a number of recommendations to the IOPC, which are being actioned and include the guidance launched today.