Policing - complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues: independent review - preliminary report

Dame Elish Angiolini's independent review addresses complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing in Scotland, in the wake of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

Interactions Between The Four Principal Organisations, Relationships and Culture

277. This preliminary Report describes the role of the principal organisations that have a crucial role in dealing with complaints against the police. In the main they are motivated to carry out their functions in a thoroughly professional way. What has however become clear through the evidence to the Review (and from recent media coverage) and is a matter of serious concern, is that certain aspects of those relationships are sub‑optimal, are characterised by an absence of constructive engagement and coloured by a tone of cynicism. Suspicious is not impartial, and impartiality is the foundation of every component part of the justice system. Suspicion can breed a lack of professional respect and a lack of confidence in other parties which can be corrosive. Suspicion must not be allowed to damage the trust on which relationships depend and the responsibility for ensuring that does not happen rests with the leadership teams.

278. A concerted effort is required to make these crucial professional relationships work more effectively. Better liaison at every level of interaction is needed to increase understanding and to reduce the unnecessary tension evident over the first few years of new structures. I very much welcome the establishment in August 2018 of the Quad meeting, which brings together senior representatives of Police Scotland, the SPA, the PIRC and COPFS, as a means to address some of the problems which have arisen and to consider practical issues collectively. There would have been benefit in having such a mechanism in place earlier but now that it is in place it needs to meet on a regular basis. The senior cross-agency joint Working Group to review guidance that is recommended at paragraph 285 below should take direction from, and report to the Quad meeting. That meeting might also be the forum at which the prioritisation of the most serious cases is discussed, trends analysed prior to papers being submitted to the SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee and information‑sharing protocols updated.

279. In setting the tone for future engagement and improvement, the Quad meeting should be guided by the ethos of From sanctions to solutions[50] and turn into a reality its philosophy of non‑punitive learning from complaints that do not involve misconduct, gross misconduct or criminality.

280. The Quad meeting brings together organisations that have to be structurally and constitutionally independent but which cannot effectively function in isolation from each other. The efficacy of the system requires professional and positive relationships that can and must take into account distinct responsibilities and essential structural independence, but there has to be a recognition on the part of all those organisations that they are also interdependent.

281. There should be a common understanding and expression of what the organisations are trying to achieve collectively and the kind of culture that they are trying to engender. It is important that the Scottish Parliament, the public, the staff associations and all the other main stakeholders understand and buy in to that philosophy.

282. The approach being adopted south of the border in the light of the Chapman Report will be examined further, but it is worth noting that the developing Home Office approach is based on creating a learning culture which focuses on prevention, early intervention and support for the people involved, and a culture that applies equally to all parties, who should be willing to listen, reflect and learn lessons. Their intention is to remove the explicit link between a complaint and the conduct of an officer, and to make the system less about blame and more about the customer.

283. The evidence suggests that improving communication between organisations needs to be addressed. The evident non‑sharing of certain information between organisations concerns me. Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) exist between a number of the organisations but these tend to be very short and in need of updating. In addition to updating, expanding and adhering to these documents, there is a huge potential benefit in creating and adopting a new 4‑way Memorandum of Understanding based on a common purpose and shared objectives. The creation of such a document is a matter for Police Scotland, the SPA, the PIRC and COPFS to take forward but I believe that it should encapsulate shared objectives shaped around these seven headings:

  • Increasing public confidence and satisfaction with service
  • Ensuring consistent practice
  • Dealing effectively and expeditiously with complaints to reduce delays
  • Increasing public awareness and understanding
  • Improving communication with the public around progress
  • Fostering proactive co-operation between organisations
  • Sharing information



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