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Interim Angiolini report calls for simplified police complaints system

24 June 2019

A simpler system for members of the public seeking to bring complaints against the police, and fewer former police officers being involved in investigations, are among the recommendations in the preliminary report by Dame Elish Angiolini's independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing.

Following concerns raised in the wake of cases such as Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody in controversial circumstances, Dame Elish, a former Lord Advocate, was asked to assess and report on the effectiveness of the current law and practice, and make recommendations for improvements to ensure the system is fair, transparent, accountable and proportionate, in order to strengthen public confidence in policing in Scotland.

Her initial recommendations include that Police Scotland should consider the scope for employing more non‑police officer support staff with appropriate seniority, skills and level of knowledge of complaints handling; and that the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) should follow a policy of replacing its former police officers when they retire with non-police officers, as well as recruiting non-police officers to its most senior posts as is done by its counterparts in England.

When investigating serious incidents, its investigators should also have a power, where it is necessary and proportionate, to compel police officers to attend within a reasonable timescale for interview; and subject to the fundamental right to silence or privilege against self‑incrimination of a suspect, police officers should give every assistance after a serious incident.

Police Scotland should also simplify and streamline its systems, to make it "as straightforward as possible for members of the public to navigate this rather opaque landscape and as easy as possible for them to access and understand information on how to make a complaint". 

Noting the wide range of issues that can be covered by the phrase "complaints against the police", Dame Elish comments that "The independence of the investigation of complaints against the police becomes increasingly critical as the seriousness of the complaint increases... There is, however, a vast raft of quality of service complaints which are most effectively and usefully dealt with by the police organisation itself in order to accelerate learning and improvements in the systems and services that the police are providing. In this context there is a need for a learning culture, as opposed to a punitive approach to complaints. This is seen as vital to organisations if they are to improve service and learn from failings." 

Over the next 12 months Dame Elish will consider in depth "a range of important issues" she sets out, that form the basis of her final report, to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Lord Advocate in August 2020. Further evidence-gathering over that time "will help to inform future recommendations and broaden the range of contributions".

Click here to view the preliminary report.

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