Complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland Ministerial Group minutes: December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the ministerial group on 2 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Joint Chairs

  • Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown MSP
  • Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, QC


  • Chris Brown, SPA Acting Chief Executive
  • Martyn Evans, SPA Chair
  • Stephen McGowan, Deputy Crown Agent 
  • Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary
  • Phil Chapman, Director of Operations, PIRC
  • Fiona Taylor, Deputy Chief Constable, People and Professionalism
  • Alan Speirs, Assistant Chief Constable, Professionalism and Assurance

Supporting officials

  • Anita Popplestone, Head of Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit
  • Neil Hastie, Head of Community Safety
  • Catherine MacIntyre, Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit


  • David Harvie, Crown Agent
  • Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

Scottish Government officials advised that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans had been delayed and would join the meeting as soon as possible. Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, agreed to chair the meeting until Mr Brown had joined.


Apologies were submitted as noted above.

Summary minute and action log from the previous meeting held on 17 June 2021

Summary minute (approval for publication)

Ministerial Group (MG) members were advised that no comments had been made in connection with the draft minute in advance of the meeting. 

With no comments being raised at the meeting, MG members approved the minute as an accurate record of the last meeting and noted that it would now be published on the Scottish Government website.

Action Log (approval)

MG members agreed that Action 210311-MG-02 should remain ongoing and that Actions 210617MG-01 and 210311MG-03 should be closed.

Reflections on progress since the last meeting

Ms Imery invited partners to provide comment.

Police Scotland

DCC Taylor advised that Police Scotland continued to make good progress since the last meeting and information was now being gathered to support completion of a number of recommendations sooner than anticipated. 

Professional Standards Department (PSD) had also reached agreement with HMICS to provide additional assurance on the evidence gathered to support completion of a recommendation before being submitted through the Scottish Government’s governance and reporting framework. 

HMICS had reviewed the evidence gathered in this reporting period and subsequently provided a report supporting submission of the seven recommendations for sign-off.

DCC Taylor added that:

  • in addition to the seven recommendations submitted for sign-off at today’s meeting, Police Scotland continues to progress work on other recommendations on which it leads, with a further four anticipated to be completed by the end of March 2022
  • use of data in relation to diversity is an area where Police Scotland needs to improve and the Chief Data Officer has been asked to establish a group specifically for this purpose
  • a new model, co-designed by COPFS, Police Scotland and PIRC, whereby Police Scotland refers all allegations of assault (and all associated criminal allegations) to PIRC for assessment and investigation, was introduced on 4 October and is working well
  • Police Scotland continues to look at good practice across the UK and where this can be applied within the organisation


The SPA Chair, Martyn Evans, introduced colleagues Alasdair Hay, Chair of the SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee and Chris Brown, Acting Chief Executive. 

Mr Evans advised MG members that in relation to Transparency and Accessibility, SPA had included a report on complaints handling within the Annual Report and Accounts, published in October, and a Complaints and Conduct Committee specific report had also been produced in August. 

Of the 12 recommendations on which SPA leads, around half are now completed and the remaining recommendations are on track to be completed by June 2022. Mr Evans also commended partners for working collaboratively with SPA to progress recommendations, and noted the engagement that had taken place with staff associations as part of that process.


Phil Chapman, Director of Operations, was representing the Commissioner currently on leave of absence. Mr Chapman advised that of the 16 recommendations led by PIRC, 7 had already been signed-off as completed and five were submitted for sign-off at today’s meeting. The remaining four recommendations were progressing well and two were slightly ahead of anticipated timescales. 

Mr Chapman added that PIRC continued to benefit from working in partnership on a number of recommendations and echoed DCC Taylor’s comments about the new model of working introduced in October in relation to the assessment and investigation of allegations of assault. He confirmed the model was working very well. 

Finally, Mr Chapman advised that PIRC hoped to deliver against the four remaining recommendations in the next reporting cycle.


HMCICS Gill Imery referred to the process agreed with Police Scotland whereby HMICS will provide additional assurance on the evidence gathered to support submission of a recommendation for sign-off as completed – in this instance seven recommendations. 

HMICS also has an interest in R18 in relation to diversity, where Dame Elish made a specific link to the HMICS Thematic Inspection of Police Scotland Training and Development. The report from the Phase II of that Inspection published on 20 October 2021 with a further 10 improvement recommendations that will be progressed alongside the Dame Elish recommendations. The Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Human Rights (EDI & HR) Independent Review Group, established by the Chief Constable, confirmed it would be taking cognisance of the report as it takes forward its work. 

Ms Imery also referred to the HMICS led R71 which proposes that HMICS and a health inspection or audit body, conduct a Review of efficiency and effectiveness of the whole‑system approach to mental health. Ms Imery explained that the breadth of this inspection was challenging, but HMICS was liaising with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Mental Welfare Commission Scotland to agree a programme of inspections in respect of this recommendation.


The Lord Advocate provided a full report of the work both completed and still being progressed by COPFS on the four recommendations where they are lead partner – two completed, one submitted for sign-off at today’s meeting (R47) and one still in progress. This included R47 which both Police Scotland and PIRC had referred to in their updates. The new model was working well so far, but would continue to be monitored by COPFS, together with PIRC and Police Scotland.

The Lord Advocate also advised that there were several other recommendations that would require contribution from COPFS and work continues to be progressed through the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG) which is co-chaired by Deputy Crown Agent, Stephen McGowan.

Mr McGowan intimated that collaborative working between all partners was better than it had ever been and there was a substantial volume of work being done by partners to implement the improvement recommendations.

The Cabinet Secretary stated that the unprecedented level of co-operation was heartening and at the point when all recommendations had been implemented, it would be important to review and make sure that the intended outcomes had been achieved. Mr Brown noted the length of time taken to implement some of the recommendations; however, the changes required to deliver the improvements were far-reaching and it was important to get that right.

The Cabinet Secretary also noted that the Practitioner Working Group (PWG) and SOG had met on several occasions since June to drive forward progress and provide assurance to the MG. There had also been positive discussions with staff associations and further individual meetings between staff associations and Scottish Government officials had taken place. Discussions had also begun with the Home Office and policing leads through the National Police Chiefs’ Council to gather evidence on the effectiveness of reforms in England and Wales. Mr Brown reminded partners that wherever possible, we should be seeking to address the recommendations, either as set out by Dame Elish or through alternative options that will deliver improved outcomes, being clear on the rationale for doing so.

Finally, the Cabinet Secretary commented on the recent appointment of Dame Elish Angiolini by the Home Secretary to lead the inquiry into the issues surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard which could have implications for this work going forward. 

Governance and reporting update

Recommendations proposed for sign off (approval)

The Cabinet Secretary noted Parliamentary interest in tracking progress and confirmed that the thematic progress report, as currently structured provided a fuller overview of progress.

Mr Brown then invited comments from partners.

Mr McGowan stated that the sign-off process at the SOG involved the review of extensive evidence submitted from partners in support of recommendations proposed for sign-off. There was, therefore, a rigorous process followed before recommendations were submitted to the MG for final approval. There was also significant infrastructure at the levels below the MG and Mr McGowan commended everyone involved in taking this work forward.

Ms Imery referred to the HMICS review of Police Scotland’s evidence which followed the same process that which would be applied in any HMICS inspection and while HMICS is happy to do this for Police Scotland, Ms Imery noted that similar arrangements were not in place for other partners. The Cabinet Secretary did not envisage any objections being raised about additional scrutiny being part of the assurance process and, as stated earlier, it would be important to review and make sure that the intended outcomes had been achieved.

The Ministerial Group approved sign-off the 15 recommendations submitted as completed

Assurance Report and Second Thematic Progress Report (approval for publication)

The Cabinet Secretary invited comments from partners. 

Mr Chapman advised that he had provided alternative wording to the secretariat on a point of accuracy regarding PIRC in connection with Police Scotland led R5 on page 25. No other comments or changes to the report were proposed. 

The Cabinet Secretary asked officials to ensure that the change was made before the report published.

The Ministerial Group noted the Assurance Report and approved the second Thematic Progress Report for publication on the Scottish Government website.

Action 210212-MG 01: SG officials to ensure that the alternative wording provided by PIRC in relation to R5 is applied prior to publication of the thematic progress report. (Note: The amendment was made to the report and accuracy confirmed with PIRC 2.12.21)


There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting

Scottish Government officials are reviewing dates for the next meeting and will contact partners with proposals in the New Year.

Closing remarks

The Cabinet Secretary thanked partners for the work being done which was substantial in some areas. Mr Brown added that it was important to not just maintain, but to improve confidence in policing in Scotland and while we were currently ahead of other jurisdictions on implementing improvements, it was important that we maintained that advantage. 

Mr Brown thanked Ms Imery for chairing the first part of the meeting and partners for their contributions.

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