Independent advisory group on emerging technologies in policing: minutes December 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 15 December 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Dr Elizabeth Aston, Edinburgh Napier University (Chair)
  • Matthew Rice, Open Rights Group 
  • Andrew Hendry, Police Scotland 
  • Barry Sillers, Scottish Police Authority 
  • Irene Henry, Equality and Human Rights Commissioner
  • Jenny Brotchie, Information Commissioner's Office
  • Georgie Henley, techUK
  • Professor Burkhard Schafer, Edinburgh University
  • Dr Angela Daly, Strathclyde University
  • Elaine Galbraith, HMICS
  • Shelagh McCall QC, Justice Scotland
  • Louise Gallacher, COPFS 
  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • Graham Thomson, SG Police Powers and Workforce Unit
  • Neil Devlin, SG Police Powers and Workforce Unit
  • Ryan Paterson, SG Police Powers and Workforce Unit


  • ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland 
  • Professor Bill Buchanan, Napier University

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. Attendees introduced themselves and their roles within their organisations.  


  • SG to chase up representative from SHRC 

Aims and objectives of the Group

The Chair noted that a Purpose and Remit document was sent out ahead of the meeting and invited comments from the Group.

There was some discussion around bullet point 2 of the document. The Group noted that as part of the exploration as to whether the current legal and ethical frameworks are robust enough, they should also explore if there is suitable institutional oversight functions and when/if policing should be able to bring in independent bodies regarding the use of new technology. 

The Chair agreed that the point about oversight is very important and should be included.

In discussing the focus on legal and ethical frameworks, the Group noted that it was clear that the current legal framework is set out in law, but that there were a variety of ethical frameworks in play, and different organisations’ ethical frameworks should be considered in addition to Police Scotland’s.

The Chair suggested that the second bullet point should reflect the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 which focuses on safety and wellbeing rather than just the prevention of crime. The Chair further noted that the purpose and remit should also distinguish between legal and ethical framework. 

The Group also discussed the possibility of trying to future proof the discussions, and of looking at other learning and areas/jurisdictions outwith Scotland for viable information. 

There was some discussion as to whether equality legislation should be included in the Purpose statement in addition to human rights legislation. The Group agreed they did not want to spell out and/or list specific legislation as it could be too wide/varied and could create a blind spot. It was suggested that “human rights and other applicable legislation” might suffice – the Chair welcomed further thoughts going forward. 

The Group discussed if they would be looking at internal technology used within Police Scotland as well as external technology used by Police Scotland. It was agreed that the Group should look at operational policing and what technology would impact/affect the public, in line with the Purpose statement..

The Group discussed the 3rd bullet point. It was noted that the bodies listed (the Investigatory Powers Commission and the Biometrics Ethics Advisory Group) were originally included as examples of advisory and regulatory bodies and were not intended as an exhaustive list. There was some discussion as to whether  there would be any limitations as to what they could eventually recommended as certain powers are not devolved to the Scottish Government. 

The Chair agreed that the underlining ethos was for the Group to build on and not replicate existing work, and suggested that a reference to the Biometrics Ethics Advisory Group might suffice in this context.


  • SG to refine on the basis of discussion (Use term policing and not specific police organisation, wellbeing and safety point to be included, purpose of policing should come from operational policing description and include equality legislation)

Agreement of Group members and wider potential contributors

The Chair noted that the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights were invited to join the Group but had indicated that they did not have the capacity to do so. The Chair confirmed that they would still like to be included on the wider contributors list, and sought suggestions from the Group for a potential replacement. 


  • Irene Henry to suggest list of possible alternatives and liaise with SG 

The Group discussed if another tech sector representative should be included – possibly PITCO (the Police ICT Company) but it was confirmed that they do not they operate in Scotland,
The Group also discussed if Children and Young People Commissioner should be invited to the core Group. It was confirmed that following recent discussions on membership an invitation had been sent to the Commissioner but no response had as yet been received. The Chair indicated she was still hopeful that they will join the Group. 

The Chair confirmed that they would look to add Children and Young People Commissioner and a race and ethnically organisation (e.g. BEMIS)

Group working methods and communications

The Chair indicated that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice hopes for report by Spring 2022, and that the initial plan was for quarterly meetings to take place, but that there was scope to have more if the Group felt this was needed.

The secretariat confirmed its role within the Group is to provide support where possible to enable the transfer ideas and information, and to bring SG resources to use. The secretariat further noted that this is viewed as a fixed piece of work with a finite lifespan, and that they were happy to facilitate as many or few meetings as required. It was noted that a public webpage would be created for appropriate information including Terms of Reference or public calls to evidence, and a mailing list of core members will be created for easy communication. The secretariat also confirmed that the Cabinet Secretary would be open to hear any early recommendations during the life of the Group if early notification would be beneficial. 


The secretariat agreed to create a resources document for all documents, guidance, learning etc. for the Group to use, and agreed to receive any information the Group wished to include in the resource document. 

It was suggested that the best way to work could be to pick a specific tech topic and test the frameworks, and/or to look at what current practice is and think about what the Group would like it to look like. 

The Chair suggested that some of the technology that the Group could talk about would be new mobile devices, Cyber Kiosks, Drones, Body Worn Video, Police Vulnerable Persons Database, Facial Recognition and Artificial Intelligence 

Next meeting 

The Group agreed next meeting would take place in February - the secretariat will facilitate this and scope out dates. 

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