Publication - Agreement

Independent advisory group on emerging technologies in policing: terms of reference

Published: 12 May 2021

Terms of reference for the independent advisory group on emerging technologies in policing.

12 May 2021
Independent advisory group on emerging technologies in policing: terms of reference


The core membership of the Group is:

  • Dr Elizabeth Aston, Edinburgh Napier University (Chair)
  • Heather Burns, Open Rights Group 
  • Andrew Hendry, Chief Digital Information Officer for 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
  • Professor Bill Buchanan, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Elaine Galbraith, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland
  • Shelagh McCall QC, Justice Scotland
  • Kyrsten Buist, The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA
  • Diego Quiroz, Scottish Human Rights Commissioner 
  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner representative TBC 
  • Ethnic minorities organisation representative TBC 

To ensure the group is able to operate effectively and timeously, members are asked to only delegate attendance at meetings to others where their deputies are empowered to make decisions on behalf of the member.

In addition to the core membership of the Group, there shall be a wider list of Individuals, Groups and Organisations that will support the work of the Core Group moving forward.

It is proposed that a Call for Evidence will be issued by the Group to enable a wider range of views and perspectives to be taken into account.


To report to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on whether the current legal or ethical frameworks need to be updated in order to ensure Police Scotland’s use of emerging technologies in relation to operational policing is compatible with equality and human rights and other applicable legislation and best practice; and to provide specific recommendations or potential outputs to address any identified issues.


To consider what potential impact emerging technologies or analytical techniques -either currently available or in development, but not presently deployed - could have on Police Scotland’s detection and prevention of crime.

To ensure that use of such emerging technologies or analytical techniques by Police Scotland is compliant both in application and in spirit with equality and human rights obligations, including those set out in the Human Rights Act 1988, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010."

To determine whether the current legislative framework used by Police Scotland to exercise their powers is sufficiently robust to allow for the proportionate and justifiable deployment of such technologies or techniques. The group will consider this within the context of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 which focuses on public safety and wellbeing as well as the prevention of crime. Human rights, equality, data protection and other relevant legislation will be considered. 

To draw on a wide range of evidence from Scotland and other jurisdictions in order to ensure that, as far as possible, the recommendations are forward and outward looking and future proofed.

To determine whether the range of ethical frameworks used by Police Scotland and other policing and public sector bodies are sufficiently robust to allow for the proportionate and justifiable deployment of such technologies or techniques.

To explore whether there are suitable institutional oversight functions to oversee the introduction of new technologies and consider in what circumstances policing bodies should seek to engage, consult and bring in independent bodies regarding the use of new technology.

To ensure that the Group’s focus, and any associated recommendations, take cognisance of the existing and planned landscape of advisory and regulatory bodies, including but not limited to the Investigatory Powers Commission and the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group. 

Work streams 

The work of the group will be progressed via four work streams , each of which will be responsible for producing a separate report and recommendations which will all feed in to produce the final output of the group. The following work streams are proposed:-

  • Legal Framework and Ethical Standards
  • Evidence and Scientific Standards
  • Consultation and Community Engagement
  • Oversight, Scrutiny and Review

It is proposed that progress on each stream would be made aligning to the following timeframes:

  • March Meeting - Agree work streams and identify work stream leads
  • May Meeting - Work stream to produce outline plan of the work they will undertake on their report for the meeting for consideration by the full group.
  • August Meeting - Work streams to produce draft report for the meeting for consideration by the full group
  • November Meeting - Work streams to produce final report for the meeting, taking account of the feedback received  

Group Secretariat

Scottish Government officials, will provide Secretariat support to the Group. 

While the secretariat are employed by the Scottish Government, while carrying out functions and support for the Group, the Secretariat act independently of the Scottish Government, answerable only to the Chair and Members of the Group.

The Secretariat will support the Chair, as required and facilitate Group meetings, provide a secure file sharing platform for members to progress work on, facilitate a Call for Evidence, if required by the Group and general other secretariat functions.


The Group, through the Chair, will report to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice both in providing regular updates on their progress, and in delivering final recommendations against the purpose set out above.


Group members will ensure their organisations work with SG colleagues to allow consistency and coordination of messaging around the Group's work and support the successful engagement with the wider sector as well as the public.

The Secretariat will facilitate a webpage on the webpage that will detail the Groups ongoing work including:

  • the core membership of the Group
  • minutes from each meeting 
  • a link to a blog by the Chair of the Group 
  • the wider list of potential contributors to the Groups work 
  • relevant documents that the Group would wish to share/publish 

Dates of meetings

  • 11th March – 11:00 – Microsoft Teams 
  • 26th May (time and venue tbc)
  • 26th August (time and venue tbc)
  • 17th  November (time and venue tbc)