Complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing - final report: joint Scottish Government and Crown Office response

Joint response to Dame Elish Angiolini from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Lord Advocate following publication of the final report of her independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing In Scotland.

Theme 8 - Efficiency & Effectiveness

It is essential that complaints are investigated fairly and that everyone works together to reduce any barriers, delays and to improve systems and learning to help those raising the complaint and those being complained against. As detailed in the Terms of Reference for the Review, effectiveness and efficiency are principles that should underpin any complaints system and this was reflected in the Justice Committee's Post Legislative Review.

Throughout both Reports, Dame Elish identified a number of areas where greater efficiency and effectiveness could improve the complaints process and elements of these feature in many of the recommendations, with learning for all partners. We welcome the steps taken by the Chief Constable who has approved a revised operating model which will see all complaints across Scotland being handled within Professional Standards from the new financial year (April 2021). This will ensure that staff with the right skills and appropriate training progress all complaint matters appropriately and will be the platform on which Police Scotland can build and develop many of the other recommendations from the Review.

Again, these recommendations are mostly operational matters for partners to take forward and we note the important progress underway:

  • As part of its new operating model, Police Scotland has developed a revised frontline resolution (FLR) process which is in the final stages prior to implementation. Impacts of this new measure will be monitored and kept under review (Final Report recommendation 9).
  • Partners agree on the importance of engaging with the SPSO to understand where they can contribute and help improve the process. This will be progressed through the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG) (Final Report recommendation 68).
  • PIRC and Police Scotland have been in discussion on benchmarking with other forces regarding time limits and PIRC aims to finalise statutory guidance early this year. There is broad agreement that new arrangements could be implemented relatively quickly (Final Report recommendation 80).

Vexatious complainers

As well as the recommendations in the Final Report, we are committed to continuing to working with partners on recommendations from the Preliminary Report published in June 2019. One of those recommendations called for the Scottish Government to consider the case for amending legislation to deal with vexatious complainers (Preliminary Report recommendation 13). However, in the Final Report Dame Elish welcomes the joint approach of Police Scotland, PIRC and the SPA on aligning their Unacceptable Action policies for dealing with vexatious or malicious complaints. We will, therefore, continue to monitor the handling of vexatious or malicious complaints with partners and will revisit and consider if changes are needed when developing legislation.

PIRC management and regional presence

In her Preliminary Report, Dame Elish recommends a management review of PIRC be undertaken by an independent expert but in the Final Report, notes that the Commissioner has made a number of significant changes and has indicated that PIRC may not require to pursue a management review.

PIRC's Strategic Plan for 2019-22 and Business Plan 2020-21 set out clearly the commitment to continuous improvement from the strategic priorities and measures to increase public confidence in policing through independent scrutiny of action taken and how complaints by members of the public are handled. The most recent PIRC Annual Report, 2019-20, which published on 16 November 2020, highlights progress and steps implemented to enhance service delivery and public confidence in policing in Scotland. These include streamlining internal processes, increases in staffing and opportunities for Review staff to diversify their role, including audits. PIRC has continued to undertake stakeholder engagement and training with partners around its role on Complaint Handling Reviews, emphasising the importance of learning and development to nurture a more learning culture within policing. This is also true for investigations whereby they continue to publish twice yearly Learning Bulletins with justice partners.

In her Preliminary Report, Dame Elish recommended PIRC consider the case for creating a regional presence to enhance its capacity to respond immediately to the most serious incidents wherever they occur. This is an operational matter for PIRC. As Dame Elish notes in her Final Report, PIRC has a Memorandum of Understanding with Police Scotland which provides that Police Scotland will secure the scene of the incident with the PIRC taking over on arrival. Dame Elish has made further suggestions in the Final Report; however, PIRC does not consider at this time a regional presence is required.

Body-worn cameras

Another recommendation from Dame Elish's Preliminary Report relates to the roll-out of body-worn cameras (Preliminary Report recommendation 11), which could enhance the evidential basis for investigations and potentially have a deterrent effect. The issue of body-worn cameras is a policy and operational decision for Police Scotland, acting under the oversight of the SPA. It is important that the service continues to gather and manage evidence efficiently, appropriately, and in a way which supports victims and witnesses during the investigation process. Body-worn cameras could fundamentally change how evidence is captured and shared. The Government is supportive of the use of Body Worn Cameras for Police Officers; we will work with justice partners to understand its costs and benefits across the whole criminal justice system. . We welcome Police Scotland's on-going work to adapt to changes in society, including the use of technology which can present both challenges and opportunities.

The Cabinet Secretary has invited Dr Elizabeth Aston, in her capacity as Chair of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on New and Emerging Technologies in Policing, to consider the issues identified by Dame Elish in relation to the operational rollout of Body Worn Cameras.

We have provided one off funding of £0.5m in 2021-22 to the SPA, to support the use of body-worn cameras.

Mental Health

We note Dame Elish's observations regarding NHS accident and emergency facilities and remain committed to improving mental health services in Scotland, as set out in the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027, assuring delivery through our Mental Health Delivery Board.

The Scottish Government's recently published Mental Health – Scotland's Transition and Recovery Plan prioritises modernising pathways into mental health services from primary and unscheduled care services. This includes our continued work with Health Boards and other partners to redirect emergency mental health presentations away from Emergency Departments by establishing Mental Health Assessment Services. There are now 13 of these services across Scotland, receiving positive feedback from patients, clinicians and other services such as Police Scotland. We will continue to work with Health Boards to retain, develop and support Mental Health Assessment Services, as part of a broader approach to helping people with mental health needs or in distress.



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