Posted: Monday 11 November 2013

New figures from watchdog reveal police complaints in Scotland fell during 2012-13

Almost 8000 complaint allegations were made about police bodies in Scotland, according to figures released today by Professor John McNeill, the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC).

  • 4306 complaint cases recorded, down 1.7 per cent
  • 7893 complaint allegations made, down 0.5 per cent
  • 378 allegations received for every 1,000 officers
  • 38 criminal proceedings, 22 criminal convictions, 90 misconduct proceedings

The report Police Complaints: Statistics for Scotland 2012-13 published by the Commissioner today (11 November 2013) reveals a small reduction in both the number of cases (down 1.7 per cent) and the allegations within each case (down 0.5 per cent) about the former eight police forces operating in Scotland. 

However there are marked differences between individual forces, with five of the eight forces reporting a fall in the number of complaint cases received. The decreases range from 2% in Tayside with 450 cases to  28% in Fife where 240 cases were received during the period. A different picture emerges for the former Strathclyde Police (1,585 cases), Northern Constabulary (336 cases) and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary (162 cases) with recorded increases of 16%, 12% and 3% respectively.  

Top three complaints unchanged, assault allegations at six year low

Complaint allegations made by the public are categorised under three headings: on-duty, off-duty or quality of service, which are not directed at individuals. In 2012-13 on-duty allegations made up the vast majority of complaints at 85 per cent, or four out of every five allegations made (6,669 allegations). Off-duty allegations made up just three per cent and quality of service 12 per cent.

Within the 6669 on-duty allegations, 96 per cent were directed at police officers, five per cent at civilian staff and less than one per cent at special constables.

Allegations of irregularity in procedure involving on-duty officers, was the most common complaint allegation disposed of by the police at 38.7%, accounting for over a third of all on-duty disposals during 2012-13. Irregularity in procedure infers that a police officer carried out his duty in manner that was not accordance with procedures or force practice. This category of complaint has risen for the last seven successive years and has been the most common on-duty complaint for the last five years.

The second most common allegation again in the period was incivility (15.5%) and this is most commonly defined as rudeness on the part of an officer when dealing with a member of the public. Accounting for exactly one in every ten disposals by the police, neglect of duty is the third most common complaint. This Neglect of duty  is where an allegation is made that an officer neglected or failed to carry out a duty required by law or in the force's own procedures.

Allegations of assault by officers has fallen to a six year low, making up just seven per cent of allegations disposed of by the police compared to 21 per cent in 2007 when the current definition was introduced.

For the fourth successive year the number of cases referred to the Area Procurator fiscal fell. In 2012-13 a total of 370 cases containing potentially criminal allegations were referred to the APF compared with 479 in 2011-12.

Professor John McNeill said:
"This annual digest of police complaints statistics offers a valuable insight into the standard of services being provided by the police to the public. I hope that by the police recording this information and by my office putting it into the public domain that the public can see that complaints about the police in Scotland are taken seriously.

"Making a complaint is one of the most effective ways that the public can use to raise issues and make their views known about their experience of the police. This is clearly an important factor in securing public confidence in the police and is important for the individual and society. Complaints can also provide the police with an opportunity to explain, perhaps more clearly than they did originally, the reasons why a particular action was taken or not taken. How police respond to complaints is also an important factor in public confidence. I often find that a good and thorough investigation of a complaint it is marred by a poor response to the person who made the complaint. The police do themselves no favours when that happens. Not least because the next stage for a member of the public is to bring their case to me to request a review."

"I am a firm believer that if a complaint raises wider or systemic issues then any lessons learned should be shared across the entire police service and not restricted to the area where the complaint originated. This is an important part of driving up standards in complaints handling."

Download a copy of the full report

<  Return to news