Police Investigations and Review Commissioner: governance and accountability framework

Broad framework within which Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) will operate and key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between the PIRC and the Scottish Government.


1. This framework document has been drawn up by the Scottish Government in consultation with the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC)[1]. It sets out the broad framework within which the PIRC will operate and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between the PIRC and the Scottish Government. While this document does not confer any legal powers or responsibilities, it forms a key part of the accountability and governance framework and should be reviewed and updated as necessary, and at least every 2-3 years. Any proposals to amend the framework document either by the Scottish Government or the PIRC will be taken forward in consultation and in the light of Scottish Government priorities and policy aims. Any question regarding the interpretation of the document shall be determined by the Scottish Government after consultation with the PIRC. Legislative provisions, including the independence of the Commissioner, shall take precedence over any part of this document.

2. References to the PIRC include any subsidiaries and joint ventures owned or controlled by the PIRC. The PIRC shall not establish subsidiaries or enter into joint ventures without the express approval of the Scottish Government.

3. Copies of the document shall be placed in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre. It shall also be published on the Scottish Government and the PIRC websites.


4. The PIRC’s role is to conduct independent investigations into serious incidents involving the police and to provide independent examination of the way police bodies operating in Scotland respond to complaints from the public. The PIRC will:

  • undertake independent and effective investigations into certain matters involving the police when directed to do so by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service or at the request of the Chief Constable or Scottish Police Authority; and relevant police matters which the Commissioner considers would be in the public interest;
  • through independent scrutiny, examine the way in which police bodies in Scotland handle complaints; and seek to ensure that the Police Service of Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority have in place efficient and effective procedures for handling relevant complaints;
  • provide re-assurance to the public that complaint handling reviews and investigations involving the police are carried out independently efficiently and effectively; and
  • help promote and support continuous improvement in the policing of Scotland.

5. The PIRC is to contribute to the achievement of the Scottish Government’s purpose and national outcomes. The PIRC will make a contribution across the strategic objectives within the SG purpose. Eleven national outcomes support these strategic objectives and these are strongly underpinned by the four pillars of public service reform: prevention, performance, people and partnership. The PIRC also has a critical role to play in helping to deliver the SG’s vision and priorities for the Justice Sector, as recently formalised in its new strategy Justice in Scotland and contributes to a number of justice outcomes and priorities. In particular the PIRC will play a pivotal role in contributing to the following Justice Outcomes and Priorities:

  • We live in safe, cohesive and resilient communities.
  • Our system and interventions are proportionate, fair and effective.
  • We deliver person-centred, modern and affordable public services.
  • We will enable our communities to be safe and supportive, where individuals exercise their rights and responsibilities.

6. PIRC is an important part of the wider family of organisations who work to keep our communities safe and to administer justice in its various forms. The PIRC should continue to seek to build on existing partnerships and forge new ones, coming together with other justice public bodies to engage jointly with the SG on strategic issues.

7. The PIRC Strategic Plan sets out the strategic priorities as agreed by Scottish Ministers. The Strategic Plan describes how the PIRC intends to carry out its functions in order to deliver priorities. PIRC’s statutory functions are set out in the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 as amended by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. As a public body, PIRC will also be subject to a range of other statutory functions, including duties under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Equality Act 2010.

Relationship between the Scottish Government and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner

8. Effective strategic engagement between the Scottish Government and the PIRC is essential in order that they work together as effectively as possible to maintain and improve public services and deliver improved outcomes. Both the Scottish Government and the PIRC will take all necessary steps to ensure that their relationship is developed and supported in line with the jointly agreed principles set out in the statement on Strategic Engagement between the Scottish Government and Scotland’s NDPBs. In particular the Scottish Government and PIRC need to work together to ensure that:

  • opportunities for improvement are identified and pursued;
  • strategic policy choices are underpinned by high quality advice, evidence and analysis; and
  • risks are managed proactively across the system.


Email: Katrina McDonald

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