Policy actions  2 of 4

Complaints, investigations and misconduct

Complaints handling, investigations and misconduct in policing

The independent review of complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland, led by Dame Elish Angiolini, concluded in November 2020. The review jointly commissioned in June 2018 by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Lord Advocate assessed the current framework and processes for handling complaints against the police and for investigating serious incidents and alleged misconduct. It considered current law and practice in terms of how Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) operate separately and together to deliver a comprehensive system for complaints handling, investigations and misconduct in relation to policing in Scotland.

Through her preliminary report (June 2019) and final report (November 2020), Dame Elish delivered 111 recommendations for improvements to systems, procedures and the legislative framework and work is now underway to implement those improvement recommendations.

Joint response to the Independent Review

The Scottish Government and Crown Office issued a joint response to the Review in February 2021, with a clear commitment to accept the majority of Dame Elish’s recommendations, many as specifically set out, but with scope to explore options where other routes or mechanisms may achieve the desired outcome. Ministers also committed to bringing forward comprehensive primary legislation to cover the necessary legislative changes to strengthen governance, accountability and a rights based approach, as well as providing a fair and proportionate misconduct process. We are engaging with partners and stakeholders in developing proposals for full public consultation.


Since publication of the preliminary report, and in light of the final report, significant steps have been taken by Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to progress recommendations, which do not require legislation. 

Reporting and governance

We are publishing a thematic report setting out key developments on a triannual basis. This is in line with commitments made to the Scottish Parliament, and in keeping with the strong theme of transparency and accessibility running through the review. The thematic progress report is structured under nine themes, setting out progress towards implementation of improvement recommendations and records the current status of each, including those where the recommendation has been delivered:

The framework consists of a three tier governance structure to oversee and provide assurance on progress towards implementation of recommendations across all partners:

  • the Ministerial Group (MG)
  • the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG)
  • the Practitioner Working Group (PWG)

Read the minutes from the Ministerial Group meeting on Complaints, Investigations and Misconduct in Policing in Scotland, held on 11 March 2021.