Strengthening public confidence in policing

Legislation unveiled to improve complaint and conduct procedures.

Proposed new laws to help strengthen public confidence in standards of police conduct have been published.   

The Scottish Government’s Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to Parliament with the aim of ensuring allegations of misconduct are dealt with more transparently and effectively.

If passed by MSPs, the legislation would see the outcomes of misconduct hearings published online and police officers no longer able to resign to avoid disciplinary proceedings.

The Bill would stop officers guilty of gross misconduct from being re-employed in policing by placing them on barred lists, with an advisory list for officers facing an allegation of misconduct and ensures officers can no longer resign to avoid being held to account for gross misconduct allegations.

The new arrangements will be underpinned by placing the code of ethics which sets out expectations of behaviour, in statute. To oversee these standards, the role of the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) will be significantly enhanced.

The Bill will deliver the majority of the remaining legislative recommendations made by former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, in her independent review of policing.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs Angela Constance said:

“Scotland is well served by the exceptional dedication and commitment of Scotland’s police officers and the work they do every day to keep communities safe.

“However, if things go wrong, the police must be held to account and improvements made. The principle of policing by consent, so central to our justice system, is built on this accountability. It is also in the interests of both the public and of the policing family.

“This Bill, if passed, will help strengthen public confidence for example by ensuring officers can no longer resign to avoid being held to account for gross misconduct allegations against them. The vital safeguards set out in this legislation will enhance the professional service already delivered by officers, as they perform their privileged duties to keep us all safe.” 


The Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill delivers a 2022-23 Programme for Government commitment, and builds on the significant non-legislative improvements already implemented by policing partners and reflected in the Scottish Government’s fifth thematic progress report.

The Review was commissioned in 2018, five years after the creation of Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). The review’s focus was to look at how the structures and processes for complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues were developing around the unified police service, which marked its tenth anniversary in April this year. The Review sought to bring greater fairness, transparency, accountability, and proportionality to the police complaints process, while protecting the human rights of everyone involved.


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