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.

Whistle‑Blowing by Police Officers and Support Staff

309. The term "whistle‑blowing" relates to a worker who reports a certain type of wrongdoing where it is in the public interest for that wrong‑doing to be disclosed. Reports, which can be anonymous, must be dealt with confidentially by the body which receives them. The worker is protected by law if they report on any of the following actions:

  • a criminal offence
  • someone's health and safety is in danger
  • risk or actual damage to the environment
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • the organisation is breaking the law
  • they believe someone is covering up wrong‑doing

310. In their evidence to the Review Police Scotland stated that it is good practice to create an open, transparent and safe working environment where staff feel able to speak up. They have recently published up-to-date guidance in order to allow officers to report concerns, or whistle‑blow. In February 2019, the company PROTECT (Whistleblowing Advice Ltd) were awarded the contract to provide an independent advice line on behalf of Police Scotland for whistle‑blowing matters. Officers have access to specific whistle‑blowing report forms. Police Scotland's publication of new whistle‑blowing guidance, was accompanied by a communication programme and an e-learning package.

311. Enhancing protection for whistle‑blowers within policing could be achieved by prescribing in legislation another Scottish third‑party reporting body or person. In England and Wales the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) is such a prescribed body, but in Scotland the PIRC is not. In her evidence to this Review the PIRC suggested that "to facilitate independent investigations of appropriate whistleblowing concerns, legislative amendment could be made to provide the PIRC with 'prescribed person' status and legislative powers to independently investigate these matters".

312. The whistle‑blowing processes will be examined in detail and further evidence taken from relevant stakeholders on how these processes work in practice. Further consideration will be given to this matter in the final report, and views would be welcome on whistle‑blowing generally, and specifically on the question of whether a policing body, such as the PIRC, should have prescribed status as the IOPC does south of the border.


Email: secretariat@independentpolicingreview.scot

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