Policing - complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues: independent review

First independent review of complaint handling, misconduct and investigations since the creation of new policing structures in 2013. Dame Elish Angiolini reviewed the effectiveness of the new systems for dealing with complaints against the police, how well complaints are investigated and the processes involved.

Executive summary

1. The ability of an individual citizen to make a complaint about Police Scotland, or any of its officers and staff, and to receive an explanation, apology, or remedy is a valuable and significant form of accountability to the public in a modern democracy.

2. My Terms of Reference from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Lord Advocate incorporate principles that should underpin and guide any complaints system:

  • fairness to all those who make or are the subject of a complaint or allegation;
  • essential accountability both of individual public servants and of those organisations which have any role in holding them and their parent organisation to account;
  • transparency, which makes systems easy to understand and facilitates public, parliamentary and media scrutiny while respecting both the necessary confidentiality of any disciplinary process and the privacy of individuals and their families;
  • proportionality in the response and the resource committed to operating the systems and in the handling of individual cases to ensure best value for the public; and
  • effectiveness and efficiency in dealing with serious and sensitive matters expeditiously; and, critically, protecting the human rights of all the people involved.

Learning culture

3. The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Police Scotland have stated that they are committed to improving policing services provided to the public. Understanding and accepting that if you are defensive about complaints you are unlikely to improve as an organisation should underpin that commitment. Valuing complaints and transforming them into successful outcomes should be a key part of strengthening the learning culture. Complaints are a great source of intelligence to any organisation and the majority of complaints received by Police Scotland will tell it something about how it is perceived, how it is performing or what quality of service it is delivering. That is valuable feedback that should be analysed and used as management information to inform continuous improvement.

4. In order that the process of making a complaint can continue to inform a learning culture in this way Police Scotland must demonstrate a maturity and wisdom in how it responds to its people making mistakes, as they inevitably will. I encourage Police Scotland to address a range of fundamental cultural issues including engendering an organisational and individual willingness to apologise when that is appropriate. Apologising sincerely does not diminish how an individual's abilities or character are perceived but rather is a demonstration of their willingness to learn and develop.

Code of Ethics

5. I commend the non‑statutory Police Scotland Code of Ethics which is based on the values of integrity, fairness and respect. The Code sets very clear standards and expectations for all members of the service. In particular, I welcome its recognition of the commitment to respect for human rights, a commitment that is also reinforced in each constable's declaration on taking office. The importance of the Code to the culture and practice of everyone in policing in Scotland cannot be overstated and therefore it should be given a basis in statute.

Criminal allegations, deaths in custody and serious injuries in custody

6. All serious criminal allegations against the police, all deaths in police custody or following police contact and serious injuries which occur in police custody should be reported forthwith to the independent Procurator Fiscal. All other allegations against the police which infer criminality should be reported to the Procurator Fiscal within 48 hours of receipt to ensure that the Procurator Fiscal can give appropriate oversight and direction to the police or instruct the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) to carry out an independent investigation. This early referral must be done to maximise the scope for capturing or preserving evidence. This is particularly important in cases which allege a breach of Convention Rights.

7. Following my preliminary report recommendation, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland now have revised procedures and practice for reporting of all cases where there is an inference of criminality or perception on the part of the complainer of criminality to ensure that they are being suitably assessed and categorised. To test that improved process, I have recommended that the PIRC should carry out an annual audit of Police Scotland's complaint handling processes to provide assurance that potential Article 3 (Prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) cases and Article 5 (Unlawful detention) cases are being correctly identified and reported forthwith to COPFS.

8. The European Court of Human Rights has made clear the importance of the victim involvement principle in dealing with the most serious complaints. Meaningful victim involvement and constructive engagement with complainers is a fundamental requirement for a fair and effective system and the complainer should be consulted and kept informed of developments throughout the process. Participation in the investigation process through liaison with the investigating body and regular communication can protect the complainer's interests without prejudicing the interests of the officer against whom the complaint is made.

9. Where a person dies in police custody or following police contact, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is engaged. In Article 2 cases, in order to facilitate their right to effective participation in the whole process, I recommend in this report that there should be access for the immediate family of the deceased to free, non-means tested legal advice, assistance and representation from the earliest point following the death and throughout any subsequent Fatal Accident Inquiry or Public Inquiry.

The case for structural change

10. This Review recommends a set of wide-ranging and significant improvements to the system in Scotland and a suite of new powers for the PIRC that would strengthen independent investigation and oversight of complaints against the police.

11. In the course of the Review I carefully considered the Northern Irish model for oversight of complaints where all complaints go in the first instance to the independent Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI). This system of oversight of all complaints and independence in Northern Ireland was designed for the particular history and exceptional circumstances that exist there.

12. Even there, approximately 10% of the complaints they receive are passed to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for informal resolution. PONI maintain oversight of the informal resolution process. A complaint is not suitable for informal resolution unless the complainant gives consent, and it is not a serious complaint.

13. My current view is that replication of the system in Northern Ireland is not required or proportionate for Scotland. This is provided that the right to report an allegation of criminality about the police direct to the independent Procurator Fiscal is actually made known to the public in such a manner that increases significantly the public's knowledge of this right. At present, very few members of the public appreciate that there is in fact an independent system already in place in Scotland.

14. The practice of COPFS directing and overseeing investigations into criminal allegations against the police has existed for many years. The thorough and independent investigation of such allegations is essential in a democratic society. The Criminal Allegations Against Police Division of COPFS was created to provide a high level of consistency of practice and decision‑making in these cases across Scotland.

Frontline resolution of complaints

15. In 2018‑19 Police Scotland received 5,919 complaints. Police Scotland's Standard Operating Procedure makes clear that frontline resolution is only suitable for complaints which are 'non‑criminal, non‑serious and non‑complex' and can be resolved without investigation other than familiarisation with the circumstances of the incident. In 2018‑19 39.8% of all complaints against Police Scotland were resolved by Professional Standards Department (PSD) Frontline Resolution and 8.5% were resolved by Divisional Frontline Resolution.

16. Frontline resolution is an appropriate and proportionate response where the matter is not serious, not complex and non‑criminal, and where an apology, an explanation, or local action or assurance is sufficient remedy for the member of the public making the complaint.

17. In order to ensure greater public confidence in the process, I have recommended that there should be no participation by local police officers or the line managers of those complained about in the frontline process itself. The notion of 'frontline' should refer to the early and effective response to non‑serious quality of service complaints which can be dealt with swiftly by PSD officers, not members of the local division. While the line manager may have an important role in addressing the issues arising from a complaint about quality of service once the complainer has had an explanation, apology or other remedy, it is not appropriate for them to be involved in the investigation or adjudication of the complaint.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner - Accountability

18. The new set of powers that I recommend for the PIRC represents a significant increase in the responsibilities of the Commissioner and her staff, and that is why I am also recommending that her accountability arrangements be strengthened at the same time.

19. In order to ensure a collegiate approach to decision‑making in the most serious cases and appropriate supervision of decision-making in such cases, PIRC should be re-designated as a Commission comprising one Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners. None of these offices should be held by a former police officer. The PIRC should be made accountable to the Scottish Parliament and should be appointed by HM The Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament. The PIRC should not be accountable to the Parliament for criminal matters, for which the Commissioner is accountable to the Lord Advocate, and not for operational matters or decisions, in which she acts independently. This in accordance with the 2009 opinion of the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights that each Police Ombudsman or Police Complaints Commissioner should be appointed by and answerable to a legislative assembly or a committee of elected representatives that does not have express responsibilities for the delivery of policing services.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner – New powers

20. The statutory function of the preliminary assessment of misconduct allegations made against senior police officers should be transferred from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) to the PIRC in order to enhance independent scrutiny of allegations, remove any perception of familiarity, avoid any duplication of functions or associated delay and give greater clarity around the process.

21. The PIRC should take on responsibility for the key stages of the senior officer misconduct proceedings i.e. receipt of complaints/allegations, preliminary assessment, referral to the Procurator Fiscal of criminal allegations and, where appropriate, referral to an independent legally chaired panel where there is a subsequent disciplinary hearing. The PIRC should also be given a power to present a case at a senior officer gross misconduct hearing.

22. The PIRC should be given a statutory power to call in an investigation of a complaint if there is sufficient evidence that Police Scotland has not dealt with a complaint properly and where the Commissioner assesses that it would be in the public interest to carry out an independent re-investigation. The PIRC should also have an additional power to investigate a current practice or policy of Police Scotland if she believes that it would be in the public interest to do so; this power should be used to focus on broad themes or trends, or practices which might be of particular public concern. The PIRC should have the power to recommend suspension of a senior officer if she believes that not suspending the officer may prejudice an effective misconduct investigation.

23. Suspension should not happen before temporary redeployment to alternative duties or an alternative location has been considered. Such a statutory suspension condition in relation to all ranks of constable would help to ensure that suspension is not used precipitately either by Police Scotland, or by the Scottish Police Authority in respect of police officers.

24. The PIRC should have appropriate access to the Police Scotland Centurion complaints and conduct database for the purposes of contemporaneous audit of complaints and to help facilitate early PIRC awareness of criminal allegations. There should also be regular triage meetings between PIRC and Police Scotland to ensure consistency and accuracy of approach to decision‑making.


25. The PIRC should be a prescribed person in whistleblowing legislation in order that people working in Police Scotland and in the Scottish Police Authority are able to raise their concerns with an independent third-party police oversight organisation.

Police culture

26. Police Scotland is a young but now established national organisation with a stable leadership team. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the culture of the new service, address any long-standing issues and consider how everyone in the organisation can help to change that culture for the better.

27. Police Scotland's Executive team should consider in depth and review the criteria and competencies that it uses to assess police officers' readiness for promotion. Those are the attributes that are perceived to be of importance to the organisation, that should reflect its values of integrity, fairness and respect and that should mould its management culture.

28. How members of Police Scotland behave towards each other in their professional context has an important public interest dimension. The culture and behaviours of those in supervisory positions is particularly critical in setting the tone and character of the culture of the department or station in question. If officers behave badly towards each other, the prospect of fair treatment to members of the public is greatly diminished. How effectively these matters are dealt with has important implications for recruitment and retention of the right people.

29. Throughout this report I emphasise the crucial importance of living up to professional standards, ensuring a balance between confidentiality and transparency, declaring conflicts of interest, ensuring appropriate levels of independence in investigation, giving early consideration to mitigating factors and having systems that accord with principles of natural justice. Achieving all of that depends to a large degree on the culture or cultures that exist across the service.

30. One of the themes of this report is that officers, staff and managers within Police Scotland should consider what other less formal avenues are open to them before seeking recourse to statutory procedures. Police Scotland as an organisation should also seek to promote a more flexible and constructive approach to how it deals with behavioural issues in the early stages and invest more in prevention rather than in cure. I have also recommended altering the statutory definition of 'misconduct' in order to raise the threshold for matters which should go down the statutory route.

31. Scottish policing should adopt a Reflective Practice Review Process that builds on the spirit of existing Scottish guidance and takes into account any valuable elements of English and Welsh best practice. The purpose of the Reflective Practice Review Process recently introduced in England and Wales is to allow low-level conduct, mistakes or performance issues that can be handled in a more proportionate and constructive way to be dealt with without recourse to formal disciplinary proceedings or performance procedures. It is regarded as a normal line‑management/performance-related conversation between the reviewer and the participating officer, so there is no formal representation of parties. Reviewers are required to consider the fullest circumstances of what has occurred, including any operational, welfare or wider factors or personal circumstances that affected behaviour.

32. Effective management, coaching and mentoring are important elements in improving the culture of an organisation. I heard significant evidence of the depletion of the sergeant rank across Police Scotland and of the absence of appropriate role models to provide support and guidance. Police Scotland should consider the workload of the sergeant rank at the front line and the supervisory ratio of sergeants to constables in order to create sufficient capacity for management, coaching and mentoring duties.

Inclusion, diversity and discrimination

33. In order to encourage confidence in the police and a willingness to interact with them, a police service should be representative of the whole of the society that it serves and its members should be drawn from diverse sections of that society.

34. Much of the evidence presented to me by some serving officers from Black and Asian minority ethnic communities was a chastening reminder that in the police service and in the wider community attitudes have not changed as much as they should have since 1999 - the year of the Macpherson report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry - or as much as we may like to believe that they have.

35. The Review heard evidence that although there was a drive to recruit officers from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the experiences of some recruits had caused them to leave the profession, often within three to five years. The Review was told during a focus group that ethnic minority officers were leaving because of the culture of the police and the way they were treated.

36. I was also deeply concerned to hear about the experiences of officers and staff about discrimination experienced by female police officers and staff and by LGBTI officers and staff.

37. If the culture of Police Scotland is to change and become more inclusive throughout all parts of the organisation it has to allow new recruits to help shape that culture rather than simply conform to what they find when they join. An inclusive organisation will build an environment where everybody feels comfortable and can thrive by being themselves in the workplace and feel valued for who they are as well as what they contribute.

38. I accept that the Police Scotland Executive team acknowledge the presence of discriminatory attitudes and behaviours within Police Scotland and are committed to dealing with it but in the light of the very worrying evidence that I have received, I consider that issues related to discrimination and their impact on public confidence in Police Scotland should be the subject of a broader, fundamental review of equality matters by an independent organisation.

Accessibility and communication

39. Complaining against the police is a serious act and, if they wish to do so, members of the public should be supported in making a complaint. Helping them to exercise their right to complain requires creating a complaints system that is accessible, receptive, comprehensible, speedy, and fair; it also requires that every person who has a part in delivering that system communicates well with the members of the public to whom they are providing the service. In short, it should be easy to complain, easy to get a response and easy to learn the lessons.

40. Accessibility is an element of the system that needs to be significantly strengthened in order that all those who have a legitimate complaint to make can do so easily and can choose the route that best suits their capabilities and capacity. Encouraging direct engagement and supporting those who wish to complain indirectly through a third party are not incompatible; there are compelling arguments in favour of the provision of both options.

41. The practice of both Police Scotland and the PIRC is to conduct nearly all communication by letter or by e-mail. I met with a number of families and individuals whose accounts of their experiences were particularly harrowing but where the organisational response did not seem to recognise that the nature of their cases was such that what they needed was to see the human face of the organisation, or to be able to speak to someone face to face, or to hear a human voice. In such circumstances those operating the system should be able to demonstrate greater empathy and humanity towards members of the public. Human interactions can build relationships and prevent misconceptions, misunderstandings and pre‑empt lengthy correspondence. The range of technology now readily available through telephony and video‑conferencing could also facilitate more personal interactions with the public.

42. Many minority communities in Scotland originate from jurisdictions where the police have low accountability and there have been significant instances of brutality and corruption. It is understandable therefore that mistrust exists, not borne out of the experience of communities with Police Scotland but deriving from individuals' experiences in their country of origin, often meaning that they do not want to deal with the police in Scotland. Against that kind of background and perception, it is all the more important that police officers demonstrate through day‑to‑day community engagement the different policing culture that exists here and what policing by consent means in practice. The benefits of community policing to public confidence, building relationships, reporting of crime and helping the police keep communities safe cannot be overstated.

43. I recommend that Police Scotland should have discussions with a number of the third‑party reporting centres for hate crime, including those representing minority groups, and secure their agreement to offer third‑party support for those who wish to make a complaint against the police.

44. It is clear that in order for all communities in Scotland to feel confident about accessing the complaints process, there is further work to be done in improving community relations and understanding different cultures and backgrounds. Community policing has a key role to play in that work.

Misconduct proceedings

45. Introducing independent consideration and determination of a complaint against a senior officer, along with independent investigation by the PIRC, together with hearings chaired by an independent legally qualified person would serve to increase public confidence in the senior officer misconduct process.

46. Gross misconduct hearings for all ranks of police officer should be heard by an independent panel. Each panel should have an independent legally qualified chair appointed by the Lord President, an independent lay member also appointed by the Lord President and a policing expert.

47. Holding all police officer gross misconduct hearings in public will ensure greater transparency. This would align policing in Scotland with other professions where gross misconduct hearings are held in public, such as doctors, dentists, accountants and lawyers. The Chair should have discretion to restrict attendance as appropriate but the aim should be to ensure that as much of a hearing is held in public as possible.

Former police officers

48. I have taken evidence from a number of individuals and families who had very strongly-held views on the question of jurisdiction over former police officers. The common perception was that police officers who were guilty of serious wrongdoing could escape justice by retiring or resigning before, during or after an investigation, and that this had the effect of forcing the termination of the statutory misconduct proceedings.

49. I believe there is a strong public interest in dealing fully and thoroughly with police officers' gross misconduct after they have left the police service and no longer hold the important office of constable. While there can be no sanction against a former police officer whose conduct is determined to have been gross misconduct and who would have been dismissed had they still been serving, it is right and proper that the process should be followed to a conclusion and, if appropriate, their names added to Police Barred and Advisory Lists which I also recommend should be maintained for Scotland. The public would expect no less and the compelling first‑hand evidence that I heard on this subject has confirmed my view.

Post‑incident conferral

50. I have previously made clear my position on post‑incident conferral by police officers in my 2017 report on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody in England and Wales to the then Home Secretary.

51. This is a particularly important issue where police officers are involved in a major or fatal incident which may be traumatic and in which they will undoubtedly be required to provide evidence. In the case of a death in custody or following police contact, or in certain other circumstances, unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity about the actions of an officer or officers, each individual officer should be interviewed as a witness as soon as practicable after the event and without reference to or conferral with other police officers or other witnesses. If during the course of the investigation information becomes available which changes the investigating officer's understanding of the situation and he or she is forming a suspicion about the conduct of the police officer being interviewed, the police officer should be cautioned immediately and the interview should become one subject to the usual rights of any individual suspected of criminal conduct.

52. I have considered whether the current position is sufficiently clear to police officers, and to the public who have a legitimate expectation that police officers will give every assistance after a serious incident. That assumption of co‑operation should be put beyond doubt in the primary legislation, including in the wording of the constable's declaration. Where such an incident is being investigated by the PIRC, the investigators should also have a power, where it is necessary and proportionate, to compel police officers to attend within a reasonable timescale for interview.

53. Early separation of officers, other than in pressing operational circumstances, is the best way to ensure non-conferral in practice, give transparency to the process and preserve the integrity of each individual's evidence. This is both in the interests of the individual police officers themselves and in the public interest in order to safeguard public confidence in the integrity of their evidence. It is also standard practice when dealing with groups of witnesses who are not police officers. Civilian witnesses are separated as a matter of course to prevent the contamination of evidence. In any group of people there is a danger of group-think that could contaminate or colour evidence inadvertently or otherwise. The interests of one officer present in a group may also be quite distinct from, and in conflict with, another's interests.

54. Where an officer considers, or is advised, that he or she should have legal advice or representation immediately after a serious incident it is important to be aware that the individual officers may have conflicting or different interests from each other.

55. Following a death or serious incident police officers may be traumatised and need support in the immediate aftermath. They should have their welfare needs addressed and have support from colleagues as necessary, including their staff association, but support should not, so far as possible, come from colleagues who were also witnesses of fact at that critical point in time. This approach will help to preserve the integrity of evidence, protect the rights of all those involved and the welfare of the police officers.

Scrutiny, delays and time limits

56. I do not consider that it would be appropriate to put into statute detailed time limits and targets for dealing with complaints but the existing time limits should be reviewed and published in the imminent PIRC statutory guidance. Performance against these targets should be measured and reported on regularly. The Chief Constable should publish annually Police Scotland's performance in dealing with complaints against the time‑scales set out in the statutory guidance. I recommend that the Scottish Police Authority Complaints and Conduct Committee scrutinise that performance and hold Police Scotland to account where the targets are not being achieved.

57. The SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee should conduct more rigorous scrutiny of Police Scotland. That scrutiny function should be reported on in the SPA annual report, drawing out particular trends, highlighting improvements or concerns and using complaints data as an indicator of communities' satisfaction or dissatisfaction with policing services.

58. The PIRC should also publish its performance against challenging targets for complaint handling reviews and investigations in the Commissioner's annual report.

Local scrutiny committees

59. I would encourage elected members in local scrutiny committees to consider what enhanced police complaints information might indicate about general public confidence in the police as well as the experience of specific communities. Complaints about the police service is an area for local scrutiny that is specifically provided for in the primary legislation and that could be developed further where the committees, partnerships or boards have the appetite, time and resource.

Audit, research and analysis

60. Audit Scotland have stated that independent, reliable and high-quality audit improves the use of public money and helps ensure the services on which we rely are as effective and efficient as they can be. That principle applies equally to the audit work carried out in relation to police complaints. That work requires to be co‑ordinated. There should be a clearly delineated hierarchy of audit functions that eliminates duplication of effort. Each level of analysis, measurement or research should inform the next relevant level.

61. Learning from research and analysis that identifies recurring themes, geographical or other patterns can enhance Police Scotland's ability to put in place preventative policy or practice measures. It can also highlight potential or actual discriminatory behaviours and the types of complaints made by particular communities within Scotland. The opportunity it offers is to help to shift the current system from being a fundamentally reactive one to a more responsive and preventative one, reduce the volume of future complaints and contribute to an increase in public confidence.

Police training

62. It is critical that those involved in complaints handling should be immersed in best practice, fully understand and apply both the letter and the spirit of the statutory guidance, be empathetic with members of the public, manage their expectations and appreciate the power of apology. From the evidence provided by Police Scotland it is clear that they have now taken steps to increase the breadth and depth of the training that they provide in the area of complaints and conduct to probationers, line managers and practitioners.

63. All Police Scotland officers and staff should receive training on unconscious bias, equality legislation and diversity; this should be updated throughout their career, with the opportunity for refresher courses at regular intervals.

64. Police Scotland officers, and staff in certain roles, should receive regular training inputs and support on how to deal effectively with individuals who display mental ill-health symptoms or related behaviours.


65. Guidance should be developed and updated across all the relevant organisations, so that all learning and development has a consistent basis, and so that there is no ambiguity regarding the interpretation of regulations. In the interests of transparency all the guidance related to public complaints arrangements should be published in an easily accessible place.

Body‑worn video cameras

66. Much of this report is concerned with the response to complaints but many complaints can be prevented by good psychology, empathetic engagement, a trauma‑informed approach and using techniques that de‑escalate aggression and create a safer environment for everyone.

67. Given the inherent risks to both officers and those detained in the event of the use of physical force, the ability to de-escalate circumstances which may lead to a violent encounter are paramount in the skillset of the individual officer. Compliance with an officer's instruction can be achieved through a hierarchy of approaches. Persuasion, calming techniques and negotiation, known collectively as de‑escalation, may have a more effective impact in securing such compliance than directive commands that escalate tension and the probability of resistance.

68. Reducing complaints by better policing methods is highly desirable. Rather than mainly reacting to complaints when they occur, the policing bodies should be taking preventative actions and adopting policies that will contribute to a reduction in their number. That is why I recommend that Police Scotland should accelerate its plans to expand the use of body‑worn video technology.

Protecting vulnerable people

69. The issue of mental health should be of paramount importance for the police service. Mental health issues are commonplace in all areas of society, so Police Scotland needs to look after every person in the service and has to understand better the people and communities they serve.

70. Dealing with members of the public who have mental ill-health or are vulnerable in other ways represents a significant challenge faced by police officers in how they deal with a range of situations. A significant amount of officers' time is taken up dealing with mental health crises faced by members of the public. Police Scotland recognise that the vulnerability and mental ill-health of individuals places a growing demand on policing and acknowledge that they are not always the right service to provide people with the help that they need.

71. Mental health professionals play a crucial role working alongside police officers. The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), Police Scotland and NHS 24 are taking forward a proposal to improve the care pathway for people suffering from mental illness, mental distress or poor mental wellbeing who present to Police Scotland and/or SAS by increasing access for police officers and SAS staff to designated mental health professionals within NHS 24 and working to provide enhanced mental health triage. The intention is to reduce the volume of police call‑outs and attendance at A&E departments.

72. Early intervention, advice and referral should ease the burden on the police service but it is inevitable that A&E will still have to deal with some individuals who are in crisis. I therefore believe that A&E facilities should be designed to be able to deal safely with mental health care and acute crises

73. HMICS, along with the appropriate health inspection or audit body, should conduct a Review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole‑system approach to mental health.


74. Independent Custody Visitors should, as a matter of course, check with custody officers and with detainees that a third party has been notified that the individual has been detained.

Welfare support for police officers and staff

75. Police officers do a difficult and often dangerous job in Scottish society. Given the very challenging nature of the role, the police service has an important duty of care to its officers and staff.

76. Police officers and staff must be valued, supported and carefully debriefed when, in the course of their duties, they have experienced something which was particularly traumatic or difficult. Such experiences are common for frontline police officers and the service must pay particular attention to their welfare needs and the effects of both regular trauma, confrontation or anger in the course of their duties as well as particular issues that can be derived from a major disaster or exceptional incident.

77. The evidence gathered throughout the Review suggests a lack of recognition that some individuals' behaviours may be attributable to the environment in which police officers operate and a need for underlying causes of those behaviours to be identified and addressed at the earliest opportunity before they manifest themselves in performance or conduct issues.

78. The evidence from the Call for Evidence, focus groups and the diversity staff associations suggests that support for officers who have been the subject of a complaint is inadequate. Lack of information and delays can lead to stress and anxiety that can and does have a detrimental effect on officers' family life. There needs to be frequent and clear communication regarding the progress of the complaint against subject officers.

Cross-border jurisdictional issues

79. Since my preliminary report was published, a cross‑agency group, also involving the Home Office and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, has been established to consider cross-border jurisdictional issues. The fundamental issue that they are examining is how the actions of police officers who are on duty and temporarily deployed to other nations of the United Kingdom can be investigated. Whatever legislative or administrative arrangements are put in place to clarify how complaints and allegations of misconduct are investigated they should be based on the fundamental principles that the location of the incident determines which body or bodies have jurisdiction and the duty to investigate; that any criminal proceedings that arise from a constable's actions or inactions during the incident will take place in the jurisdiction in which the incident in question took place; and that any misconduct proceedings arising from the incident should be governed by the regulations in place in the constable's home jurisdiction and dealt with by the appropriate authority there.

November 2020


Email: ian.kernohan@gov.scot

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