Theme 4 - Transparency & Accessibility
Closely linked to governance and accountability is the theme of transparency and accessibility. Complexity and lack of clarity were features of complaints handling systems observed by both Dame Elish's Review and the Justice Committee. We are committed to working with Police Scotland, the SPA and PIRC to ensure we have a complaints system in place which is fair, accountable, transparent and accessible to everyone. As Dame Elish states it should be easy to complain, easy to get a response and easy to learn the lessons. More broadly, there is more we can all do to ensure our approach and language are clear and accessible. As part of this commitment, we intend to provide updates on progress in an accessible and transparent way, as described in the Reporting Framework section.
Within Dame Elish's Final Report she highlights the importance of transparency, confidentiality and the role of the media. Highlighting concerns around Article 8 of ECHR (respect for private and family life), around striking the right balance of rights which the media and organisations should take into account, particularly when dealing with serious incidents and at the early stages of senior misconduct cases. This was an area raised during the early stages of the Review, to which PIRC responded to in 2018 and we welcome the change to previous practice, with the decision not to publish information or comment on senior misconduct cases.
We will return to findings relating to the framework for managing misconduct, and senior officer misconduct allegations in particular, under the theme of Conduct and Standards. Under this theme, we consider recommendations for enhancing transparency around the work of the SPA's Complaints and Conduct Committee and progress towards improving information on routes for complaint, to make them more accessible to the public but also greater transparency for officers who are the subject of a complaint.
Dame Elish makes six recommendations in the Final Report and two recommendations in the Preliminary Report which relate to transparency and accessibility and we are pleased to note there is agreement by partners to make improvements to deliver on the intent of all recommendations and plans are in progress to take these forward:
- PIRC is in the process of updating its website to make it clearer that a member of the public can take a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) if they are dissatisfied (Final Report recommendation 36) and will continue to refer individuals to SPSO if they remain unsatisfied when responding to letters of complaint.
- Police Scotland has commenced work on its website and a review of complaint resources to enhance public engagement and messaging which better publicises the ability to make a complaint or give feedback. This also includes reviewing the Know Your Rights section of the Police Scotland website, which is particularly aimed at young people (Final Report recommendations 48 and 49; Preliminary Report recommendation 8).
- Police Scotland has agreed a nationally consistent process to ensure officers are made aware they are the subject of a complaint (Preliminary Report recommendation 6).
- PIRC, COPFS, Police Scotland and the SPA have committed to working to better publicise the ability to report a complaint of a crime by a police officer directly to the Criminal Allegations Against Police Division (CAAP-D) of COPFS (Final Report recommendation 46).
- The SPA is developing proposals to share more of the substantive discussions of how Police Scotland is being held to account in the Complaints and Conduct Committee minutes and to include the content of private minutes where appropriate (Final Report recommendation 30).
- The SPA is also developing proposals for reporting on the Complaints and Conduct Committee's scrutiny function in the SPA Annual Report (Final Report recommendation 31).
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