Posted: Friday 23 June 2017

PIRC recommendations following strip search implemented

Recommendations made by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) to Police Scotland relating to complaints about a strip search have now been implemented.

Amongst several complaints, a man complained of being strip searched and said the reasons for the search were not fully explained to him. The man contacted the PIRC after being dissatisfied with the response by police to his complaint.

The Complaint Handling Review (CHR) revealed that the man first came into contact with police when he refused to confirm his name or date of birth when two officers arrived at his home in connection to a dispute with his neighbour. On arriving at the police station the man continued not to cooperate and refused to answer standard Vulnerability Assessment (VA) questions. The officers involved therefore believed a strip search was justified to ensure no items had been secreted about the man which could potentially be a danger to himself, officers and staff.

After  conducting CHR 453/16, the PIRC recommended Police Scotland go back to the man with more details to further explain why he was believed to be at risk of being in possession of a harmful item; the reasons why a strip search would be considered to lower this risk; and the reasons why the search was considered to be necessary in the circumstances.

In response to the recommendation, Police Scotland revisited the matter, concluded that the strip search was not justified in the circumstances, and upheld the complaint.

During the review it was also found there was no CCTV of the man's arrival at the police station as it had been wiped after 28 days, although the man first made his complaint after 26 days. The PIRC recommended that Police Scotland conduct enquiries to establish why steps were not taken to seize the CCTV as soon as the complaint was received.  The PIRC also requested that Police Scotland consider whether or not its procedures were robust enough to ensure that, when a complaint such as this one is received, steps are taken to identify and secure any available CCTV footage required before it is destroyed. 

Police Scotland has since advised that it has reviewed its procedures to ensure that the securing of CCTV evidence is prioritised during the initial assessment of complaints.

Recommendations in two further CHRs were also implemented. Following a domestic dispute (546/16) involving the apparent theft of a games console and a vehicle, the PIRC recommended Police Scotland revisit the complaint to assess if the officers adopted a fair and consistent approach and that they provide the complainant with a more detailed response.

Lastly, a man contacted the PIRC following Police Scotland's decision to refuse his firearms certificate application (506/16). The applicant was unhappy with the information provided to him by an Inspector during a meeting in November 2015. After reviewing the complaint the PIRC recommended further statements be taken from the officers involved to clarify the content of their discussion and that a further response should then be issued to the applicant that re-assesses whether or not his complaint should be upheld.

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