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.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner

193. The PIRC's stated purpose and vision is "to increase public confidence in policing through independent scrutiny of police actions and promoting continuous improvement."

194. Section 45 of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006[44] gives the PIRC the power to issue statutory guidance on the handling of complaints about the police. The current guidance, From sanctions to solutions[45] was published in 2011 and was subject to minor revision in 2013 at the time of police reform. The purpose of the guidance is "to contribute to the modernising of police complaint handling in Scotland by moving from a culture of blame and sanction towards one of learning from complaints, which in turn strengthens the accountability and integrity of the police complaint handling system".

Functions of the PIRC

195. The office of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner was created in April 2013 to provide a new independent investigatory service for certain police matters. The PIRC inherited the former Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland complaint handling review functions which had operated since 2007 under the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 and assumed the new investigatory functions prescribed in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. The PIRC's remit also includes carrying out specific functions set out in the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Investigations Procedure, Serious Incidents and Specified Weapons) Regulations 2013 and the Police Service of Scotland (Senior Officers) (Conduct) Regulation 2013.

196. The PIRC can investigate:

  • incidents involving the police, where directed to do so by COPFS. These may include any death involving a person serving with the police, and allegations of criminality made about police officers;
  • serious incidents involving the police, at the request of the Chief Constable or the SPA. Reasons for requests for investigations from the Chief Constable may include the serious injury of a person in police custody, the death or serious injury of a person following contact with the police or the use of firearms by police officers. (Firearms for this purpose includes TASER weapons and PAVA spray);
  • allegations of misconduct by senior police officers of the rank of ACC and above, if requested by the SPA; and
  • relevant police matters which the Commissioner considers would be in the public interest.

197. At the conclusion of an investigation, the Commissioner can recommend improvements to the way the police operate and deliver services to the public in Scotland.

198. The PIRC in her evidence seeks additional powers to investigate former police officers who at the time of the act or omission in question were serving with the police. She also suggested that the Lord Advocate's guidelines be amended to provide that the reporting of both on and off duty criminality by police officers is expedited to COPFS and/or the PIRC. These issues are addressed in Chapter 15.

199. The PIRC also independently reviews the way the police and the SPA handle complaints from the members of the public. If a complainer is dissatisfied with the response at the conclusion of the police or SPA process, they may then apply to the PIRC for a Complaint Handling Review (CHR). Once the CHR is completed PIRC may publish the findings.


200. The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is appointed by the Scottish Ministers for a fixed term of office. The 2006 Act prescribes that the Commissioner is not a servant or agent of the Crown, and it precludes former police officers from being appointed to that office. The PIRC as an organisation is an independent Non Departmental Public Body.

201. The Commissioner is accountable to the Scottish Ministers for certain matters which are set out in a Governance and Accountability Framework[46]. The Framework states that "the Scottish Ministers are ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the activities of the PIRC and its use of resources. They are not however responsible for day to day operational matters". The Director General for Education, Communities and Justice in the Scottish Government is responsible for ensuring that there is continuous assessment and appraisal of the performance of the Commissioner.

202. The Commissioner is also held accountable for financial matters by the Auditor General for Scotland. Like any other devolved Scottish public body the PIRC may be held to account by the Scottish Parliament, primarily through its committees.

203. The Commissioner is accountable to the Lord Advocate in respect of investigations into deaths in custody and allegations of criminality which the appropriate Procurator Fiscal directs the PIRC to carry out.

204. Prior to police reform the PCCS created an Audit and Accountability Committee to advise on audit, finance and risk. This remains a helpful administrative arrangement to assist the Commissioner and the PIRC senior management team. It has four members who were invited to join the Committee. The Committee's functions are providing independent oversight and scrutiny of finances; providing risk management and governance; approving the appointment of internal auditors; reviewing PIRC's annual accounts and internal audit reports. Apart from this Committee however there is no formal Board or other governance mechanism within the PIRC structure.

205. The operational independence of the body which investigates the police is of paramount importance as it is in the public interest that the Commissioner and the investigation teams can act without fear or favour. The role of the Commissioner is central to the effective investigation of policing and crucial to public confidence in that system. The Commissioner must be independent and must be seen to be independent. The office places heavy responsibilities on the individual appointed to hold what is a singleton post with neither Board nor peers to give support.

206. COPFS may direct the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner or the Professional Standards Department of Police Scotland to undertake further investigations into allegations of criminality. Whichever course is taken, the investigation remains under the direction and control of COPFS, consistent with the fundamental principle that the responsibility for overseeing and investigating any allegation of criminality rests with the Lord Advocate and COPFS as independent public prosecutor.

207. In considering evidence to this Review I have formed the view that the accountability and support arrangements for the PIRC should be clarified and strengthened. In reaching this view I have taken into account written evidence from HMICS that PIRC accountability is "an area of weakness with the current arrangements. It is not clear to whom the PIRC is accountable for the progress or quality of its work".

208. This is a matter of fundamental importance and in the final report it will be considered in detail, but views would be welcome over the next six months on a number of options that could help to clarify accountability, reduce the involvement of Scottish Ministers, strengthen support and make the PIRC more accountable for matters for which the PIRC is not otherwise accountable to the Lord Advocate. Those suggestions, which are not all mutually exclusive, are set out below:

  • The PIRC could be made accountable to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body in the same way that independent parliamentary commissioners appointed by the Parliament are accountable to and scrutinised by the relevant parliamentary committee. The Scottish Parliament would have to be consulted on this matter.
  • The PIRC could be made accountable to the Lord Advocate for non‑criminal matters in the same way that the office of Commissioner is accountable to the Lord Advocate for criminal matters and the investigation of deaths involving the police. The Lord Advocate would have to be consulted on this matter.
  • Given the sensitivity of the office of Commissioner the role could be strengthened and supported by the creation of two additional part‑time Deputy Commissioners with relevant legal expertise and experience who are not former senior police officers.
  • The PIRC should be made accountable to a new statutory Board of members appointed through the Scottish public appointments process whose role would be to scrutinise the work of the organisation, review the performance of the Commissioner and offer supportive advice and expertise.

209. I would welcome further views and evidence on these proposals.

210. The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has suggested that the name, "Police Investigations and Review Commissioner" is "ill‑conceived as it immediately suggests to the public that the organisation is part of the police". That assertion is supported by the evidence to the Review from PIRC investigators.

211. Consideration should be given to adjusting the title of the organisation. This may or may not involve primary legislation to effect the change as it would be possible for the organisation to function under a different title even if its legal name was unaltered. What matters is the public perception. The precise wording is a matter for the PIRC and Scottish Government, but it should emphasise the inherent and crucial independence of the Commissioner and give some indication of the core functions. If the number of Commissioners were to be increased, as suggested in one of the options set out in paragraph 208, consideration should be given to re‑designating the PIRC as a "Commission".

Location of PIRC staff

212. A number of contributors in their evidence have commented on the location of the PIRC's office which is based entirely in Hamilton in Lanarkshire. This is perceived as an operational weakness in the arrangements because of the logistical difficulties associated with attending deaths or other serious incidents which require the PIRC teams to travel long distances in response to referrals from Police Scotland or directions from COPFS. In evidence to the Review the Commissioner explained that investigators could travel by car to most locations in Scotland in a few hours. The PIRC operates an on-call system which provides 24-hour cover but the more distant the location from the central belt, the longer the gap before the local Police Scotland officers hand over the incident scene to the PIRC investigation team. In certain circumstances the local procurator fiscal may attend the scene but that is not always the case. As stated in my report to the then Home Secretary[47], the first hours following a death or serious incident, referred to as "The Golden Hour" are crucial. Not only can they fundamentally set the shape and tone of an ensuing investigation because of the importance of evidence‑gathering, but an individual's or a family's experience of the entire process may be coloured by the way they are treated in these crucial hours.

213. The PIRC should consider the case for creating some measure of regional presence to enhance its capacity to respond immediately to the most serious incidents wherever they occur. Furthermore, guidance should be agreed between the PIRC, COPFS and Police Scotland about the criteria for attendance at the scenes of deaths or serious incidents by the PIRC investigator and the local Procurator Fiscal, and the handover of a potential crime scene to the PIRC by Police Scotland.

Statutory powers on complaint handling

214. One of the statutory functions of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) is to carry out complaint handling reviews of non‑criminal complaints against the police. After a relevant complaint has been dealt with by Police Scotland or dealt with by the Scottish Police Authority, the Commissioner may, at the request of a complainer or the appropriate authority, carry out a review of the manner in which the complaint has been dealt with.

215. The 2006 Act, as amended by the 2012 Act, provides that the Commissioner must draw up a report of any complaint handling review including conclusions, reasons and any action proposed by the Commissioner.

216. After completing a review of the handling of a complaint the Commissioner may direct Police Scotland or the SPA to reconsider a complaint. The Commissioner may also require that reconsideration of the complaint be carried out under PIRC supervision. The person appointed to carry out the reconsideration must be someone who has no previous involvement and, in the case of a supervised reconsideration, must comply with any requirements imposed by the Commissioner as to how the reconsideration should be carried out.

217. The Commissioner does not have the power to overturn a decision on a complaint or to instruct Police Scotland or the SPA to do so.

218. PIRC's complaint handling reviews often include recommendations that are relevant to the specific complaint and may also include generic recommendations relevant to Police Scotland or SPA practices.

219. The Commissioner may also issue guidance to Police Scotland or the SPA, and regularly does so in the form of Learning Points which are made public on the PIRC's website.

220. We received evidence that the use of reconsideration directions by the PIRC had increased with the intention of ensuring a higher level of compliance by Police Scotland. The PIRC took the view that this change in practice was necessary because too many of their non‑statutory recommendations were not being implemented. This change in PIRC practice has had a resource implication for Police Scotland who noted that it was "causing significant additional enquiry".

221. The Commissioner has suggested that the primary legislation, Section 35(3) of the 2006 Act, be amended to clarify that the actions proposed in a complaint handling review report may include recommendations as well as directions. I support this suggestion as a means of ensuring action on complaint handling review recommendations and learning points, without the highly labour intensive requirements of a direction.

222. In evidence to the Review, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner also suggested that all complaints about the police should go to an independent organisation in the first instance: "There would appear to be merit in all complaints about the police, by members of the public, being directed to an independent body, right from the outset. It is appreciated that such a model would represent a transformation of the investigation of police complaints in Scotland but perhaps such a change is necessary in the new environment in order to maintain public confidence and ensure that the police complaints system is seen to be independent and fair. This would require new legislation and adequate resources to be put in place."

223. This suggestion is supported by the Law Society of Scotland in its evidence: "There appears to be a case possibly for the creation of a single investigatory body (such as an ombudsman) that can independently deal with all police complaints raised by members of the public."

224. I am unconvinced at this stage about such a fundamental change in functions and structures. The majority of complaints about Police Scotland go in the first instance to Police Scotland and are dealt with by them. I comment elsewhere in the report on ensuring effective triage, the possibility of direct and supervisory monitoring of the Centurion system by the PIRC, the identification of potential criminality or breaches of Convention Rights, the crucial importance of independent oversight and how all those elements can be strengthened. These can be achieved under the current structures. Directing all complaints from the most minor to the more serious to an enlarged independent body may be a disproportionate and bureaucratic arrangement which will create further delay for those individuals complaining about quality of service matters.

PIRC structure and staffing

225. The structure of the PIRC organisation includes investigation teams, a Complaint Handling Review Team, HR professionals, Communications, Finance and corporate services. A striking omission is the absence of any legal support within the staff. Although the current Commissioner and the Head of Reviews and Policy are legally qualified this might not be the case in the future.

226. Given the sensitive nature of the functions of the PIRC, the key role the organisation plays in the Scottish justice system, the complexity of the legal framework around complaints and investigations, the wide-ranging investigatory powers of many staff, and the level of interaction with COPFS and law enforcement agencies the PIRC should consider the case for building legal support and advice capacity into its structure.

Composition and profile of PIRC investigation teams

227. I support the current policy of the PIRC to reduce reliance on the employment of retired police officers as investigators. At the point at which the PIRC was establishing the investigation teams in 2012‑13 it made complete sense to recruit retired police officers. The new, expanded organisation was put together very rapidly after the passage of the legislation and there was an imperative to get it up and running in time for 1 April 2013. This policy was appropriate and necessary for a new organisation taking on new investigative functions.

228. There are significant benefits in making good use of investigation skills and previous policing experience, but it is also true that this can be perceived as diminishing the independence of the investigation because it has the appearance of the police investigating their former colleagues in the police. There is also a risk that as policing practices change, skills will diminish, particularly in specialist areas, and therefore there is a need to maintain current skills and knowledge in those who have come from a policing background.

229. The process of diversifying the investigator cadre, and training recruits from outwith policing should continue and evidence was provided by PIRC investigators who come from different backgrounds and have brought relevant skills to the organisation. There will in the next 5 to 10 years be a place for former police officers in the functions of the PIRC, however following the retirement of former police officers the aim should be to replace them with non-officers. Investigative skills are not the sole domain of the police service. They exist elsewhere and can be learned through training on and off the job. The PIRC might also consider as part of its recruitment policy whether there would be benefit in employing former Procurators Fiscal as investigators.

230. Currently most senior investigative personnel in the PIRC are former police officers who served in Scotland. This contrasts with the situation in England and Wales where the most senior posts within the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) must now be filled by non‑police officers. As in the case of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, the legislation prescribes that a former police officer cannot be appointed as the Director General of the IOPC. In its one‑year report, the (then) IPCC pointed out that the most senior members of its management team were all from a non-police background. The PIRC should adopt a similar policy. There are obvious benefits in drawing on the experience and expertise of those who have served with the police but it does leave the PIRC open to criticism based on the danger of unconscious bias. It is important that public confidence is not affected by the perception of a close relationship between the investigator and those being investigated. The need for balance and the risk of loss of organisational memory suggest that any changes in staffing should be gradual.

231. It is neither feasible nor desirable for the PIRC to replicate the full range of specialist policing skills that exist within Police Scotland, and I support the current practice of the PIRC to draw on those specialists whenever their skills are required to conduct an investigation.

Access to the Criminal History System

232. The Review heard evidence that PIRC investigators did not always find it easy to get access to relevant information from Police Scotland's Criminal History System (CHS) when they were preparing to visit witnesses. Given the nature of PIRC's business this is a genuine business need and Police Scotland should facilitate or provide access to CHS to PIRC investigators promptly as a matter of course in order to mitigate any personal safety risks PIRC officers face when interviewing certain witnesses in locations outwith official premises.

Confidentiality and transparency

233. The PIRC has until recently adopted the practice of putting into the public domain information relating to the investigations it was carrying out into the conduct of senior officers on receipt of the referral from SPA. At the point when a referral is received by the PIRC from the Scottish Police Authority there has been no more than a preliminary assessment of the complaints or allegations. At this early stage of the investigation the need for confidentiality is important to avoid deterring or intimidating potential witnesses or subjecting officers or their families to media attention when there is still very often no evidence and certainly no prima facie case in the PIRC's possession. I raised my concern with the Commissioner in the early stages of the Review and this practice has since ceased. On 6 November 2018 the Commissioner confirmed this change of practice to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament that, "In light of our experience last year, we agree that there should be confidentiality around the process and, like the SPA, have determined that in future we will not normally provide comment on senior officer misconduct investigations."

234. While the principle of transparency is appropriate in relation to many of the functions of public bodies it is not always appropriate in relation to any public body charged with investigating allegations of misconduct or criminality at the earliest stages. Investigations into such matters should be sealed temporarily, not only to protect individual and family privacy when the investigation is only at a very early and crucial stage, but in order to create a safe space in which witnesses feel more comfortable to come forward with their evidence against senior and powerful people/officers as well as for those giving exculpatory evidence. There may be a time for transparency about the outcomes but not while the investigation is at its earliest stages, is ongoing or the decision on any action yet to be determined.

235. Premature publication of information and unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information, from whatever source, detracts from the efficacy of the investigation, may create unhelpful and distorted speculation, place potential witnesses under immense pressure and cause profound reputational damage without good cause.

236. I will give further consideration to the whole question of privacy, the public interest and the role of the media in my final report, but welcome further views on this issue from the public and members of the press and media.

The Complaint Handling Review Team and relationships within the PIRC organisation

237. In the process of gathering evidence it has become apparent that as an organisation the PIRC consists of two distinct and quite disparate parts: the small Complaints Handling Review Team which existed previously and was the core function of the PCCS organisation, and the much larger investigations teams. This historical dichotomy has a number of manifestations and effects that persist today.

238. We heard evidence that the CHR Team is perceived to have, and often perceives itself to have, the status within the PIRC of the "poor relation"; that a lack of coherence and unity of purpose exists within the organisation, and that there exists a perception within the CHR team that they are under-resourced to carry out their audit function is a matter of concern. This inevitably has a detrimental impact on staff morale and motivation in the team, which is compounded by a lack of obvious career development within the organisation and, until more recently, training opportunities. The impact of dealing with complaints, an inherently negative subject matter, every working day is not moderated by the wider research and audit activities which PIRC have the power to carry out but have not done since 2017.

239. In the Commissioner's written evidence to the Review she explained that the functions of the CHR Team are distinct from the investigation functions and, because they are more akin to complaint handling than policing, they would sit more comfortably elsewhere within the office of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The point is also made that this option was considered when the PIRC legislation was being drafted in 2011-12. I am not currently persuaded of the merits of this proposal. Complaint handling reviews, audits and research provide an opportunity to identify whether the categorisation and treatment of complaints is appropriate. This has been a major concern of the PIRC and has been discussed before the Justice Committee. Having this function conjoined with the investigation team allows familiarity with the developing criminal law to be maintained in order that wrongly categorised complaints can be spotted. I will give further consideration to this proposal in the full report and any other major proposals for structural changes elsewhere. In the meantime there is considerable merit in greater interaction, co‑operation and training with the SPSO to share best practice.

240. The benefits of a transfer of these functions to SPSO are in my initial view outweighed by the benefits of a closer alignment of the CHR team with the investigations team and the ability and opportunity within the CHR team to recognise and highlight issues of potential criminality or liaise with the investigations team when they have not been identified and addressed by the police. For example, it is because the CHR Team observed the inappropriate categorisation of conduct as excessive force, rather than assault, that a change of practice was instituted whereby the Procurator Fiscal charged with investigating complaints against the police now sees all allegations of excessive force and unlawful detention before determining where such complaints should be directed for investigation. The CHR function is a critical part of the system which provides an appropriate and impartial check not only on handling but also on the appropriate categorisation of complaints.

241. I am also concerned about the suggested wholesale removal of the CHR team from the PIRC but will give further consideration to the PIRC's proposition in my final report.

242. There is significant scope to enhance and widen the current functions of the CHR team and how it pursues its role by engaging in its statutory responsibilities of audit and research. Their focus should be on what the complainers' complaints are focused on, but they may also observe collateral issues that should go back to Police Scotland systematically and be brought to the attention of the ACC and the DCC on a thematic basis. Currently, too much time and effort is spent identifying every single issue at fault in the complaint handling, even those aspects of the complaint which were handled to the satisfaction of the complainer. This is disproportionate and can be better directed into thematic reviews rather than reworking of a whole case by the police.

243. In 2015 the Commissioner asked Robert Gordon, until recently a member of PIRC's Audit and Accountability Committee, to lead a Review of PIRC Procedures in relation to Complaint Handling Reviews. The insight and conclusions of that review have much to commend them despite the passage of time. In respect of relations between the CHR Team and Police Scotland the review concluded that: "…by determined and sustained effort, much could be done to build a real spirit of common endeavour without offending the need for separation and independence in the consideration of individual complaint handling reviews (CHRs)."

244. The tension then apparent between the two organisations was captured in this section: "PIRC reviewers argue that the police should be doing more to improve the quality of complaint handling by following their own operational and complaint handling guidance. On the other hand the police will argue for the review activity to pay more attention to outcomes and less to procedural minutiae, to focus on materiality and proportionality and resist pedantic and bureaucratic counsels of perfection". The review also commented that: "there needs to be developed a greater sense of fitness for purpose in conducting reviews".

245. The 2015 Review also commented on supervision and checking of CHR work: "In comparing the management hierarchy for PIRC review work with the oversight structures for similar activities elsewhere, I was surprised by the high ratio of senior managers to review officers. I was also surprised by the limited delegated authority enjoyed by experienced review officers – again in comparison with other organisations discharging similar functions. … I consider that given the range of responsibilities PIRC discharges compared with the predecessor body, there is a need to reflect on the level of management resource devoted to review work and the scale of revising of review officers' work which seems to be undertaken. It is, of course, ultimately for the Commissioner to determine the scheme of delegation which should apply and the level of checking and quality assurance she requires."

PIRC training

246. I welcome the additional training that has been put in place within PIRC over the last nine months but consider that this should have been implemented much earlier in the lifetime of the organisation. It was clear that staff had benefited from the new provision of training. For the CHR staff to understand complaints against the police there must be significant understanding, familiarisation with real‑life policing and experience of what officers face in unregulated and sometimes frightening environments. The training that has been available to the CHR should be extended to ensure that they have that kind of informative familiarisation, and a concerted effort made to ensure closer liaison with the Complaints and Conduct Team in the SPA.

247. Later in this report comment is made on learning from outwith Scotland and that was a theme picked up in the 2015 Review led by Robert Gordon: "Experience elsewhere…has shown that a strong focus on work flow, swift inquiry handling, case filtering and early disposal of less complex cases yields productivity improvements and enhanced staff and customer satisfaction". The Commissioner has met with her counterparts in other jurisdictions in the United Kingdom and that engagement and learning should be extended to other levels of the organisation.

PIRC culture

248. The PIRC is a relatively young organisation and is still developing. The Review has considered evidence around its staffing, training, structure and culture. The cultural issues and tone of the organisation will be addressed more fully in the final report. The PIRC vision includes promoting continuous improvement. There is much more that can be done to realise that vision, and the essence of that is adopting a more positive approach, emphasising improvement and driving up Police Scotland's standards, rather than adopting a predominantly punitive, fault‑finding approach.

249. While the investigative role and the CHR function are both critical to thorough examination of what may have occurred to cause a complaint or public dissatisfaction, there was little evidence of the philosophy described in the PIRC's overarching statutory guidance, From sanctions to solutions[48], in which the executive summary is introduced with the purpose of the guidance as "to contribute to the modernising of police complaint handling in Scotland by moving from a culture of blame and sanction towards one of learning from complaints…".

250. The PIRC is one of the vital checks and balances within policing in Scotland created to instil public confidence in independent investigations and the complaints system. The culture of the organisation should reflect and engage the ethos of From sanctions to solutions with a view to assisting the police with continuous improvement in policing services.

251. The roots of the organisation lie in the complaints handling review function described earlier in this report, however the PIRC is now much more heavily focused on its investigatory functions and this was very much reflected in evidence. This evidence included indications of a 2-tier organisation where investigators heavily outnumber other functions and the Complaint Handling Review team is perceived as the second tier.

252. The PIRC employs a large number of very able and very experienced former police officers in its investigation teams who share with serving police officers a commitment to public service, a sense of fairness and a desire to help others. They carry out a challenging role in investigating serious and sensitive matters. Dealing with allegations or situations that can range across the whole gamut of policing specialisms from within a relatively small organisation presents challenges. These were highlighted in the HMICS evidence to the Review:

"It is difficult for retired officers to maintain competence in contemporary investigation techniques, particularly if those officers reached senior rank and had not have carried out operational roles for some time prior to retirement. This explains anecdotal evidence from serving officers that PIRC investigations can feel more like the 1990s than 2019."

253. While keeping skills up to date is a challenge that should be addressed through training programmes, a related issue that also needs to be considered is the tenure of investigators and what the optimal duration for such a role is taking into account, experience, training and career development.

254. The key product from PIRC investigations is the investigator's report. The evidence given to the Review suggested that the time and effort devoted at many layers of management to the quality assurance of these reports was excessive; in some instances reports were checked five times before being completed. There was evidence that this kind of excessive supervision caused delays, disempowered staff and had an effect on morale. Notwithstanding that level of intensive supervision, there was evidence that the product that goes to partners can on occasion be lacking in focus, over‑lengthy, and does not always identify the relevant material.

255. There would be benefits to both the organisation as a whole, its staff and its partners if its focus was more strategic, its engagement more constructive and its approach more outward‑looking. Not only would a shift in emphasis and tone enhance external relationships but it would also boost the confidence and motivation of staff across all teams.

256. In the light of the evidence provided about the organisation and its culture, I consider that there should be an immediate management review by an independent consultant to ensure that it has appropriate leadership, skills and culture to carry out its functions in the future, and to examine interactions with other stakeholders and how they can be improved.

Recommendations in relation to the PIRC

257. Recommendation: The PIRC should consider the case for creating some measure of regional presence to enhance its capacity to respond immediately to the most serious incidents wherever they occur.

258. Recommendation: The PIRC should have the support of a new statutory Board of members appointed through the Scottish public appointments process whose role would be to scrutinise the work of the organisation, review the performance of the Commissioner and offer supportive advice and expertise.

259. Recommendation: The Commissioner, or potentially a Deputy Commissioner, should be vested with a statutory power to make recommendations in addition to the existing powers to direct reconsideration of complaints. The corollary to that is that there should be a statutory duty, subject to a public interest test, on the Chief Constable to comply with recommendations unless there are sound overriding operational or practical reasons for not complying with a PIRC recommendation and an obligation on PSD to report progress back to the PIRC. Those statutory arrangements should be supported by agreement between the PIRC and Police Scotland on how the PIRC will be kept advised of progress.

260. Recommendation: The PIRC should consider the case for building into its structure legal support and advice capacity.

261. Recommendation: Following the retirement of former police officers PIRC policy should be to replace them with non-police officers. The PIRC should also adopt a similar policy to the IOPC's in England and Wales by recruiting non‑police officers when recruiting to the most senior posts.

262. Recommendation: There should be a management review by an independent expert to ensure that the PIRC has appropriate leadership, skills and culture to carry out its functions in the future, and to examine interactions with other stakeholders and how they can be improved.



Back to top