Introduction & Overview
Joint Scottish Government & Crown Office Response To The Report On Complaints Handling, Investigations And Misconduct Issues In Relation To Policing In Scotland
It is of the utmost importance that public and parliamentary confidence in the police remains high. We greatly value the work of Scotland's police officers and staff in keeping communities safe, particularly as a vital part of our public health response to the challenges of the pandemic. A survey by the Scottish Police Authority from October confirmed that 61% of respondents rated their local police as excellent or good. To sustain that confidence, it is essential that when things go wrong, the police are held to account, lessons are learned and improvements made. The principle of policing by consent, so central to our justice system, is built on this accountability.
When Rt. Hon Dame Elish Angiolini, DBE QC was commissioned to undertake an independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct in relation to policing in Scotland, the Scottish Government and Crown Office sought to bring greater fairness, transparency, accountability and proportionality, to ensure that all parties are treated justly. The recommendations of both the Review's Preliminary and Final Reports provide a platform for bold reform of the framework and systems governing this complex landscape and we record our thanks to Dame Elish and the Review team for the significant body of work, detailed analysis and extensive engagement underpinning this, with thanks also to those who contributed towards the Review. We acknowledge the work of the Justice Committee in considering a broad range of evidence relating to police complaints as part of its Post Legislative Review of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (hereafter the "2012 Act). The recommendations of that Review, many of which align with Dame Elish's findings, will be addressed in this response.
We remain confident that the systems for handling police complaints, investigations of serious incidents and misconduct are fundamentally sound, but recognise there is a clear case to make improvements. While public confidence in policing is high, we intend to seize the opportunity to make it even stronger in the field of complaints, investigations and misconduct. As Dame Elish states, complaints and investigations are a vital way for Police Scotland to learn and continually improve.
Together, working with partners, we intend to accept the majority of Dame Elish's recommendations, many as specifically set out, but with scope to explore options where other routes or mechanisms may achieve the desired outcome. Some will require further detailed discussion and development before a way forward can be agreed; in advance of that work we cannot provide a definitive position on every recommendation in this response but will set out a clear direction of travel. We will progress this collectively, where proposals cut across organisational responsibilities and individually, where they are wholly led and owned by one organisation - but here too, we commit to sharing progress and learning.
This is not the start of the journey: we will build on successful improvement work already undertaken and the shared commitment to partnership working since publication of the Preliminary Report in June 2019. We commend the significant steps taken by Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). Each of the partner organisations is putting in place important measures which will provide the foundations on which to build progress towards implementation. In her Final Report, Dame Elish acknowledges these developments and significant improvements in communication between the key partner organisations and a "sea change in the relationships", resulting in an ability to address and resolve issues more effectively than before.
This response is based on that engagement to date but we recognise there is much more to do and for that reason we intend to set out our plans for managing implementation, providing an overview of governance and assurance; proposals for a thematic reporting framework; and detail progress in specific areas under those themed headings. In taking forward the work, we are also committed to adopting a collaborative and inclusive approach to engagement with the whole policing community and recognise the key role that staff associations will play. Again, we will not pre-empt that essential work by responding in detail on every recommendation at this stage. 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.
There will be longer term resource and finance implications associated with changes to current roles and responsibilities, jurisdiction and powers that may flow from implementation. The Scottish Government's total budget for policing in 2021-22 will be over £1.3 billion. This includes a £60 million increase in the SPA resource budget which will eliminate the structural deficit and deliver a sustainable budget position. In addition, the SPA will receive a further £15 million, one-off COVID-19 consequentials, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the policing budget. This budget supports officers and staff and will ensure that officer numbers are maintained. In recognition of the additional demands faced by the PIRC, the draft budget for 2021-22, while still subject to parliamentary approval, includes an increase to the PIRC budget which builds on uplifts in previous years. As is always the case, we will continue to work with partners on budgets and resourcing required, recognising that timescales will in part be influenced by the investment required to underpin delivery, as would be the case for development of any new IT infrastructure.
We welcome recommendations that take account of changes to legislation and working practices in other parts of the UK. We will work with our counterparts and partner bodies across the four nations to address cross-border jurisdictional issues and assess whether some of their arrangements could be adapted to work well here, mindful of the very different legislative and policing context in Scotland.
We do not underestimate the scale of the task ahead: these are complex issues, involving multiple organisations, additional costs, time and, in many cases, legislative changes - but we are committed to delivering these improvements in partnership. This in no way compromises the operational independence of partners, who may respond separately to provide more detail on the work underway within their own organisations.
In setting out this joint response, our aim is to provide an overview of the work undertaken and the work that lies ahead, signalling an overarching commitment to reflect on all of Dame Elish's recommendations and make plans which serve the best interests of the public and respect the rights of all involved.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice
RT HON James Wolffe QC
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