i. What this consultation is about
In a police service focussed on a policing by consent approach, maintaining public confidence is vital. That is why the Scottish Government asked Dame Elish Angiolini to undertake an independent review of complaint handling, misconduct and investigations. Her final report on Complaints Handling, Investigations and Misconduct Issues in Relation to Policing was published in November 2020 and made a series of recommendations to improve the systems and structures which underpin the ways in which complaints about the police are received, managed and investigated.
Dame Elish states that 'it should be easy to complain, easy to get a response and easy to learn the lessons' (p. 282, para. 18.1). The report identifies barriers that currently exist and examines how these can be reduced or removed to make the systems more accessible and improve the experience of all those involved in the process including police officers, the public, and victims and witnesses of crime.
Many of the recommendations which will deliver on this do not require legislation and are being taken forward by partners (Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS)).
The recommendations provide a strong platform on which to drive meaningful improvement, in collaboration with partners across the policing sector here in Scotland, thereby strengthening public confidence in this invaluable public service.
Public confidence in policing in Scotland is generally strong, as illustrated in a recent survey which points to continued public confidence in the service. However, when things go wrong, it is vital that complaints are investigated timeously, thoroughly, fairly and transparently, and that our police service is held to account, lessons are learned and improvements made. Equally, police officers and staff have a right to expect that they will be treated fairly and proportionately if a complaint is made against them, and that complaints will be investigated promptly through a clear process.
These principles – to bring greater fairness, transparency, accountability and proportionality to current systems and governance structures (as set out by Dame Elish Angiolini) – are key to the questions set out in this consultation.
This consultation consists of 4 sections:
- Section 1 considers the recommendations which seek to clarify or to strengthen existing legislation around the rights of members of the public and police officers. It also asks for views on the responsibilities of police officers during investigations, and on Police Scotland's Code of Ethics.
- Section 2 asks for views on proposed changes to the governance and jurisdiction of, and additional powers for, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
- Section 3 seeks views on conduct and standards and other measures regarding disciplinary and grievance procedures.
- Section 4 requests views on clarifying the liability for unlawful conduct, in relation to the Chief Constable.
ii. Why we are consulting
Partners have been delivering Dame Elish Angiolini's recommendations since her Preliminary Report was published in 2019. The Scottish Government regularly reports on progress via its Thematic Progress Reports, the second of which was published in December 2021. These reports are underpinned by a governance and reporting framework which provides assurance to Ministers on progress towards implementing Dame Elish Angiolini's recommendations.
A number of recommendations have been identified as likely to require a basis in primary or secondary legislation, in order to be effected in full.
Responses to this consultation will influence the Scottish Government's policy decisions on the implementation of recommendations which may require primary or secondary legislation in order to be effectively implemented.
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