Complaints, Investigations and Misconduct in Policing in Scotland Ministerial Group minutes: December 2023

Minutes of the meeting of the ministerial group on 7 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, Angela Constance MSP, Joint Chair
  • Rt Hon Dorothy Bain KC, Lord Advocate, Joint Chair
  • Martyn Evans, SPA Chair
  • Chris Brown, SPA Deputy Chief Executive
  • Katharina Kasper, Chair of SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee
  • Cassandra Scott, Principal Depute, COPFS
  • Craig Naylor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland
  • Phil Chapman, Operations Director, PIRC
  • Alan Speirs, T/Deputy Chief Constable, Professionalism, Strategy and Engagement
  • Emma Grimason, Superintendent, Professional Standards

Supporting officials

  • John Somers, Deputy Director, Police Division
  • Anna Stansfield, Head of Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny Bill) Unit
  • Catherine MacIntyre, Team Leader, Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny Bill) Unit
  • Sarah Simpson, Policy Officer, Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny Bill) Unit


  • Jo Farrell, Chief Constable
  • Lynne Brown, SPA Chief Executive
  • John Logue, Crown Agent
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting, noting that it was the first time she had chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Group since taking up the role of Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs earlier in the year. Since then Scottish Government (SG) had published its Fifth Thematic Progress Report and the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) Bill had been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. The Criminal Justice Committee (CJC) had also issued a Call for Views which would close on 8 December.

In setting the scene for the meeting, Ms Constance remarked on the significant progress that had been made by partner organisations to implement improvement recommendations since Dame Elish published her Preliminary Report in 2019. However, it was important to ensure that improvement continues and to recognise that there will always be a need to review, adapt and continually improve in order to maintain public confidence in policing. All of this important improvement work must, of course, be underpinned by cultural and behavioural change which is something that both the former and current Chief Constables have publicly stated is a key priority for Police Scotland (PS).  


Apologies were submitted as noted above.

Taking stock and feedback from partners

The Cabinet Secretary invited each partner to comment on what has been achieved so far, consider if they are content with recommendations signed off so far and advise on what assurances can be given about ongoing review and improvement. 

Polic Scotland (PS)

DCC Speirs made the following points:

  • PS has been working hard over a significant period of time on those recommendations where PS is lead (26 in total). A small number (five) are still in progress with three predicated on the complaints database. A system upgrade to the database is due to be implemented in January after which it will be possible to draw on more qualitative diversity data and bring forward those recommendations for sign off in the next governance cycle
  • although significant work has been undertaken, the two remaining recommendations - relating to sergeant workloads and supervisory ratios and the Independent Review of Equality Matters in PS - are still in progress. However, it is hoped that these recommendations will also be brought forward for sign off in the next governance cycle. PS is also taking stock of the recently published HMICS Thematic Review of Organisational Culture in Scottish Policing and Review of Vetting and Policy Procedures within PS 
  • further restructuring has been implemented to provide more focus in the Policing Together programme and the work being progressed by the Independent Review Group to enhance training in relation to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and to further support PS officers and staff 
  • the PS submission to the CJC on the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) Bill is currently being finalised. PS is supportive of the Bill and fully committed and focused on a range of activity across the organisation

Scottish Police Authority (SPA)

SPA Chair, Martyn Evans, stated that Dame Elish’s review was pivotal and completely reset the system. It was now less focused on process and more attuned to people, and has strong support from the SPA. He was also confident that SPA had the metrics to measure success and provide ongoing assurance on the improvements that have been made.

SPA Deputy Chief Executive, Chris Brown, then provided some further detail under the following five headings

  • public transparency
  • publishing products in the public interest
  • step change in handling of senior officer complaints 
  • revised guidance on conduct regulations which is now more people focused
  • significant Improvements in PS reporting to the complaints and conduct committee

Three SPA led recommendations are still in progress – one relating to ethics in policing and two are linked to the PS database – all of which are anticipated to be submitted for sign off in the next governance cycle.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC)

Director of Operations, Phil Chapman, advised that subject to sign off of recommendation 7 as completed at today’s meeting, PIRC will have discharged all recommendations where they are lead partner. He confirmed PIRC is content that recommendations completed so far have achieved the intended outcomes and gave the following examples:

  • the transfer of responsibility for all assault and unlawful detention allegations against Police officers and staff to the PIRC alone has delivered over 600 additional referrals since 4 October 2021, where PIRC now investigates all such allegations
  • the first joint audit (PIRC and SPA) of aspects of PS’ complaint handling arrangements has been completed. Implementation of recommendations will be overseen by the Commissioner and SPA, and publicly reported thus increasing transparency

In terms of future assurance, PIRC has revised its performance data framework and established an analytical capability which will allow identification of trends and early intervention. In addition, there are specific key performance indicators which PIRC report against in their Annual Report and Accounts leading to greater transparency of the management of PIRC reviews and investigations.

Overall, PIRC considers that there has been a distinct benefit in implementing the recommendations which has resulted in greater collaboration, consultation and partnership working between the key stakeholders. 

His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS)

HMCICS, Craig Naylor, made a number of points, including:

  • the HMICS led recommendation made by Dame Elish (R71) proposes that HMICS, together with other inspection bodies, undertakes a whole system approach to review of mental health in Scotland
  • HMICS has recently undertaken its own thematic review of Policing Mental Health in Scotland and this is an area in which the CJC has shown a keen interest. In the report, HMICS recommends that SG commissions a strategic review of the whole system relating to mental health and HMICS would be happy to be part of that. This will allow HMICS to put forward R71 for sign off in the next governance cycle.
  • considerable work has been undertaken by partners that goes beyond the recommendations made by Dame Elish. The self-awareness of PS and SPA, as well as the acceptance of improvement recommendations and desire to improve is welcome. Alongside Dame Elish, recommendations made in HMICS reports on mental health, vetting and culture all contribute to the overall improvement of policing

The Cabinet Secretary acknowledged the links between all of this work and the interest shown in Parliament and the CJC which will be both helpful and challenging. Ms Constance welcomed the commitment from partners and stated that there is more of mutual interest and benefit between justice and health which would be in the best interests of those who are in need.

Crown Office and Procurators Fiscal Service (COPFS)

Principal Depute, Cassandra Scott, gave a summary of the contribution made by COPFS to implement recommendations. This included four COPFS led recommendations, signed off as completed in 2021/22, which had allowed for improvements to become embedded and monitoring of the success is ongoing. COPFS’ view is that there has only been positive impact as a result of implementing Dame Elish’s recommendations and they will continue to support partners going forward.

In concluding this item of business, the Cabinet Secretary expressed her appreciation of all of the work done and stated that Dame Elish’s report had become a cornerstone of improvement in the way complaints and investigations are handled. However, organisational culture remained an area of scrutiny and interest from Parliament which is to be welcomed. With the significant progress made in implementing non-legislative recommendations, Ms Constance noted the transition to a new phase of legislation and the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) Bill.

Assurance report

The Cabinet Secretary reminded MG members that the Assurance Report had been reviewed and discussed by the Practitioner Working Group (PWG), with oversight and scrutiny from Strategic Oversight Group (SOG). The report confirmed that risks are being actively managed, provided an overview of those recommendations still in progress (appended), made a proposal on future assurance and proposed one recommendation for sign off as completed by the MG. If approved, this would bring the total number of recommendations signed off as completed to 59, with 9 still being progressed by operational partners. Ms Constance invited comment from partners.

HMCICS, Craig Naylor, commended the Bill Team for producing a very good piece of legislation and also for the effective management of the governance and reporting framework.

There were no other comments and members endorsed the recommendations in the Assurance Report as follows:

Review of risk and mitigating actions    

  • Noted that the SOG has reviewed and endorsed the amendments to the high level risks and the mitigating actions as recommended by the PWG

Recommendation proposed for sign-off

  • Confirmed that, based on the assurance provided by the PWG and, thereafter, the SOG, delivery of the one recommendation proposed by PIRC should be signed-off as complete 

Future assurance on the positive impact of implementing recommendations

  • Confirmed agreement with SG’s proposal (noting PWG and SOG prior endorsement) that partners should be routinely monitoring the positive impact of Dame Elish’s recommendations, and can demonstrate to the public, Parliament and others, that intended outcomes have been achieved, supported by an ongoing cycle of review and improvement and


  • Noted that, on this occasion, progress will be reported through publication of the summary Minute of the MG on the SG website

Any other business

There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting

The Cabinet Secretary commented that there was no fixed date for the next meeting and proposed, with members’ agreement, that future business could be conducted by correspondence, with the caveat that a meeting could be arranged should the need arise. Members were unanimous in their agreement that the MG provided a useful forum should an issue of mutual interest arise, but that the next cycle of governance could be handled by correspondence.

Closing remarks

The Lord Advocate expressed her gratitude for all of the work done thus far and said it was an exciting time as the Bill goes forward through the Parliamentary process. She passed on her best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

The Cabinet Secretary added her grateful thanks and wished everyone well over the festive period.

Recommendations still in progress

Rights and ethics

  • SPA - R32 - ethical issues – roles of committees

Status: the evidence required for submitting this recommendation for sign off is now available. However, it needs to be agreed via the SPA’s Performance Committee and owing to scheduling it will come forward to SG’s governance framework in the next cycle. 

Governance and accountability

  • SPA R29 - SPA to hold Police Scotland to account for any delays and raise any concerns over PIRC delays with the Commissioner
  • SPA R79 - SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee to scrutinise Police Scotland’s performance in dealing with complaints and hold to account

Status: there is some dependency between these recommendations and the upgrades to the Centurion database noted below. However, a minimum criteria has been established and, subject to further report development continuing following Centurion system change, R29 and R79 can be submitted to the SPA’s Complaints and Conduct Committee for discharge and then to SG’s governance framework in the next cycle.

Equality, diversity and inclusion 

  • Police Scotland R5 - Police Scotland and SPA to consider expanding collection and publication of diversity data
  • Police Scotland R19 - Police Scotland should develop its diversity data collection and analysis to inform a proper understanding of issues related to discrimination
  • Police Scotland R60 - Police Scotland to analyse complaints data to gain a better understanding of different groups and communities’ experience of the police

Status: It is anticipated, subject to successful testing of the new functionality, that the first stage of this upgrade will be introduced by end December 2023. Further work will continue to incrementally introduce additional capability to enable the future capture of relevant data. This progress should hopefully allow these recommendations (R5, R19, R60) to be proposed for sign off as completed in the next cycle of governance

  • Police Scotland R18 - independent review of equality matters within Police Scotland

Status: there are dependencies with reports from the Independent Review Group and HMICS which are not yet published.

Training and HR

  • Police Scotland R11 - Police Scotland to consider front line sergeant workload and supervisory ratio of sergeants to constables

Status: work is still progressing on this recommendation with a milestone date of April 2024. This may be followed by another period for an evaluation before roll out can begin force-wide making it unlikely that R11 will be submitted for sign-off in the next cycle of governance.

Audit and review

  • PIRC R7 - next follow up audit of six stage complaint handling process or audit of frontline resolution to be carried out by PIRC

Status: submitted for sign-off as completed at MG meeting 7 December 2023.

  • HMICS R71 - HMICS, and health inspection or audit body, to conduct a review of efficiency and effectiveness of the whole system approach to mental health

Status: in order to support whole systems consideration, a multi-agency advisory group was established to provide advice and assurance throughout the planning and development phases of the thematic review of Policing Mental Health in Scotland published on 18 October 2023. The report makes reference to R71 (HMICS led) and R72 (SG led), with a recommendation that Scottish Government should commission a strategic review of the whole system relating to mental health, involving a range of scrutiny bodies because HMICS does not have the power to do this. It is anticipated that the findings and associated recommendations of this thematic review will contribute significantly towards the discharge of R71 which is expected to be submitted for sign off in the next governance cycle.

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