More than four in five allegations made against Devon and Cornwall Police officers last year resulted in no misconduct action, new figures show.

Across England and Wales, the proportion of allegations not seeing further action remained unchanged from the year before at 89%, which experts said shows a lack of police accountability.

Home Office figures show 1,499 misconduct allegations were made against Devon and Cornwall Police officers and handled under the formal complaints process in the year to March 2023 – up from 1,362 the year before.

Of these, 1,495 were either not investigated, or investigated not subject to special procedures, with 1,262 (84%) resulting in no further action.

None of the allegations led to misconduct proceedings, while 52 were withdrawn.

The figures cover the total number of allegations rather than the number of complaints – one complaint could contain several allegations of misconduct. They do not cover any complaints handled outside the formal process, where it was felt a detailed enquiry was not needed.

There were 86,160 complaint allegations involving police officers in the country last year – fewer than 87,768 the year before.

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s military, security and police programme director, said: “Police accountability cannot function in a system where the police are largely responsible for investigating themselves.

“Given growing concerns over police conduct, particularly with over-policing of marginalised communities, we need to ensure there is better independent oversight where complaints are thoroughly investigated, people need to have confidence that misconduct is taken seriously, and that police officers don’t operate in a climate of near impunity.”

Nationally, there was a 33% rise in the number of “recordable conduct matter” allegations, from 1,802 in 2021-22 to 2,402 last year. These are complaints where it is alleged a police officer's conduct resulted in a death or serious injury.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “It’s really concerning to see such a high number of allegations of misconduct against the police, and that so many of them have no action taken.

“We all deserve to be treated fairly and with respect, but unfortunately we know that sexism, racism and violence run through British policing.

The figures show six recordable conduct matterallegations were made against Devon and Cornwall Police officers, with one referred to misconduct proceedings.

Ms Andrews added: “Particularly worrying is the high number of alleged incidents which involve police conduct resulting in death or serious injury. Too many people in our communities are being harmed or killed by the police, with victims and their families having to spend years battling for justice.

There were 5,363 allegations of “conduct matter” made against police forces nationally, 168 of which were in Devon and Cornwall. These are allegations indicating an officer may have committed a criminal offence or behaved in a way that would justify disciplinary proceedings.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which investigates the most serious police misconduct allegations, said not all complaints relate to alleged misconduct, but could simply be an expression of dissatisfaction, with no further action required.

A spokesperson said: “Changes to the complaints system, which included widening the definition of a complaint, have had the expected result of increasing the number of complaints recorded by force in recent years.

“The law also recognises that many complaints will not require a lengthy investigation and a range of options, such as organisational or individual learning, as well providing an explanation or apology, are available to resolve these.

“We continue to work with professional standards departments to help improve initial complaint handling, which will benefit both the police and the public.

“Complainants have a right of review into the handling of their complaint, which in the most serious cases would come to us. This ensures there is oversight of the system, and allows us to identify and address trends and themes in complaints handling where necessary.”