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Angiolini to review police complaints handling procedures

20 June 2018

Dame Elish Angiolini QC, the former Lord Advocate, is to undertake an independent review of the processes for handling complaints against the police in Scotland.

Commissioned by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, the review will assess the effectiveness of the structures, operational responsibilities and processes of the current complaints framework, and inestigations into serious incidents and alleged misconduct.

It will also make recommendations to strengthen public confidence in policing in Scotland, ensuring the system is fair, transparent, accountable and proportionate.

Complaints against the police are handled internally, with an independent reviewer, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, overseeing the process and any complaints about how it works.

The Commissioner, Kate Frame, recently wrote to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee proposing that an independent body should also deal with complaints at first instance. She has also claimed that there have been cases where serious allegations against officers have not been referred to prosecutors in time to be properly investigated. However her own office has in turn been criticised as ineffective by campaigning solicitor Aamer Anwar.

The Review will consist of two phases:

  • a consideration of current procedures and guidance to identify areas for immediate improvement; and
  • a wider assessment of the frameworks and practice in relation to complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues, including the work of the Police and Investigations Review Commissioner, the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland.

Mr Matheson commented: “Most of us recognise and welcome the diligent, expert and often courageous work of the many thousands of police officers and staff who help keep Scotland’s communities safe. That public confidence is also sustained by knowing that when things go wrong, the police are held to account, lessons are learned and improvements made.

“Given some of the questions raised in recent times about the processes for police complaints-handling, investigations and misconduct issues, and whether they could be improved, the time is right for this independent review, which will be ably led by Dame Elish.

“The review will seek to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear, agreed protocols will balance transparency with appropriate levels of confidentiality, and that the processes are fair, transparent, accountable and proportionate, upholding fundamental human rights.”

Dame Elish added: “I look forward to engaging with those with direct involvement and experience of the current system – from all perspectives – to understand how it is working in practice and to identify areas for improvement.”


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