Social security: response to consultation on draft investigation of offences regulations

Response to the main views expressed in the report on the consultation on the draft investigation of offences regulations and the code of practice for investigations, outlining where the draft code of practice has been updated and highlighting areas within the draft investigation of offences regulations that are being reviewed.

Chapter 3 – What to expect if being investigated

58. Chapter 3 of the draft Code of Practice, as consulted upon, is perhaps the most immediately important to those individuals under investigation.

59. For those cases where the evidence points towards an offence being committed, individuals will be invited to attend an Interview Under Caution (IUC) and this will provide an opportunity to offer their version of events. The draft Code of Practice clearly states that this is voluntary and offers a chance to provide a reasonable explanation or to dispute or clarify any of the evidence gathered during the investigation.

Treating People with Dignity, Fairness and Respect

60. A number of respondents noted that it would be beneficial that interviewees, as a matter of course, are asked if they require any support before the IUC proceeds. They also noted that any individual invited for interview should be advised of their right to be accompanied and any provisions for pre-interview support. Others highlighted the importance of support for individuals in the form of advocacy and advice prior to interview as well as adequate provision in terms of accessible and inclusive communications.

61. The draft Code of Practice makes clear that individuals will be informed in advance of their right to be accompanied by another person. Social Security Scotland will aim to ensure accessibility and be as flexible as possible about the time and place of the interview, working with the individual to assess their requirements.

62. The Act ensures provision of several other types of support. Sections 4-6 ensure that all information which is made publicly available is available in formats that are accessible to individuals who have a sensory, physical or mental disability. It stipulates that information should be provided about independent information and advice services, and independent advocacy, and underlines the importance of ensuring that communication difficulties do not present a barrier to justice. This is being carefully considered in the design of communications and interview processes.

Interview Approach

63. A number of additional specific operational points were raised by respondents in relation to how interviews should be carried out. The Scottish Government welcomes this feedback and will take these views into account when Social Security Scotland is developing its detailed operational processes.

64. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity, fairness and respect at all times. In line with the principles laid out in the Act and our Charter, all interviews will be undertaken by staff with appropriate training and will be carried out under a presumption of innocence, consistent with a rights based approach.

Interview Recordings

65. The draft Code of Practice states that a recording will be made available to individuals whose case is referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

66. It was suggested by some respondents that recordings should be made available in all cases where an individual is interviewed under caution. While a transcript would be available where an interview formed part of the evidence for a prosecution or appeal, the Scottish Government accepts that there may be other situations where an individual may wish for the audio recording to be available, and this will be provided by Social Security Scotland on request.



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