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 9 - Audit & Review

Throughout the Review, Dame Elish emphasises the critical role of independent auditing and review in improving services and increasing public confidence in the police complaints and misconduct system; points also raised by the Justice Committee in its Review. As Dame Elish highlights, it is through audit, research and analysis that partners can develop a more preventative approach and reduce the volume of future complaints. As well as identifying opportunities for improvements, it is through audit and review that we will measure the impact of any changes or the implementation of recommendations. Although Dame Elish identifies questions relating to some of the practices in place, she also commends progress on auditing since the Preliminary Report was published in June 2019.

Although essentially operational matters for partners, we welcome the recommendations on audit and review and commend PIRC, the SPA and Police Scotland for their commitment to progressing these quickly, where possible. In particular, it is good to see where progress has been made since the Preliminary Report was published, including:

  • The introduction of an annual multi-agency audit by Police Scotland focused on the complainer's journey.
  • Additional funding received by the PIRC to enable it to increase the capacity of its Reviews team to undertake the various audits identified in the report (Final Report recommendations 7, 42 and 61; Preliminary Report recommendations 5 and 27).
  • Coordinated response underway at the National Complaint Handling Development Group (NCHDG) on arrangements for an annual multi-agency audit of Police Scotland's complaint handling.
  • PIRC will engage with Police Scotland on carrying out the next audit of the six stage complaint handling process or audit of frontline resolution.

Review of mental health

We recognise the need for, and the importance of, ensuring there is sufficient mental health support for those in police custody or who Police Scotland engage when in mental health crisis. There is agreement that 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. We understand there needs to be further discussion on how best to take this forward including who will lead on this, how other partners are involved and how any provision is scrutinised. We will provide a further update on this recommendation as these discussions progress.

Prioritisation & Next Steps

As we stated at the beginning: we do not underestimate the scale of the task ahead - but we are committed to delivering these improvements in partnership with stakeholders. Throughout this response we have regularly referred to our partners and it is important to stress this is very much a collaborative effort. There will be aspects for each of the respective organisations to lead on but we are confident that collectively, we share the ambition and commitment to deliver on the improvements needed.

However, it is equally important when making bold changes to the complaints and conduct system that we engage and consult with partners, stakeholders and communities in the wider sense, to ensure all views are taken on board and all approaches considered.

In communications with the Justice Committee and Sub-committee on Policing, we have emphasised that every effort would be made to make progress where possible, but that parliamentary time was key to making legislative changes, while acknowledging that such time is under a lot of pressure. We do, however, commit to bringing forward comprehensive primary legislation to cover the necessary legislative changes in a single instrument where possible, supported by secondary legislation where necessary, to avoid a piecemeal approach. We recognise the development and scrutiny of legislation will take time, requiring extensive consultation and, of course, will be subject to the outcome of Scottish parliamentary elections.

Together, with partners, we will continue to prioritise and progress implementation workstreams that are not contingent on changes to legislation, pressing ahead where there is a clear agreement on the options to be delivered and committing to working through options where further consideration is required. As we have reported in this response, there are already plans in progress to implement many of the recommendations. Where we have not reached a definitive position on the way forward, discussions will continue both between and within each organisation. The new governance structure will provide leadership, oversight and scrutiny and, most importantly, accountability and transparency to both the public and the Parliament on progress being made.

We would like to conclude by once again thanking Dame Elish for this comprehensive review and thanks to all who contributed to the Report, particularly keeping in mind the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all areas of society.

There are – and always will be – opportunities to improve the complaints handling and investigation process. We are confident that we have good systems for the handling of police complaints, investigations and misconduct but our aim is to have the gold standard. The Dame Elish report provides the foundation and a roadmap to get us there.



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