Posted: Monday 17 July 2017

PIRC makes recommendations in complaint review case following allegation of criminal breach of Data Protection Act


The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has recommended that police provide a further response to a woman who complained that officers had failed to pass on relevant information to the Procurator Fiscal following an allegation that a social worker had committed a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act.

The recommendation was the result of a review by the PIRC into 3 complaints made to police by the woman. She contacted the PIRC to request a Complaint Handling Review (CHR) after being dissatisfied with the response from Police Scotland.

The complaints examined by the PIRC were that a police officer did not pass all relevant information to the Procurator Fiscal and also failed to keep the applicant updated on the progress of the investigation. The third examined whether Police Scotland had lost evidence provided by the applicant.

In the CHR 411.16, it was found that two of the complaints had not been dealt with to a reasonable standard and two recommendations were made.

The woman's complaints arose from the arrangements for the care of her sister who had mental health issues and was under the care of the local authority social work department (SWD).

Following her sister's death in November 2012, the woman raised a number of complaints against the SWD in connection with its handling of her sister's case. One issue raised by the complainant was her view that a social worker had provided inaccurate information to the NHS which had resulted in the NHS restricting her ability to provide care for her sister.

In September 2014, the woman approached police alleging that the social worker had committed a criminal breach of the Data Protection Act. Her allegations were investigated and in September 2015, the social worker was charged with an alleged breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

A police officer subsequently submitted a Standard Prosecution Report (SPR) to the Procurator Fiscal but they decided not to initiate proceedings against the social worker.

After submitting her complaints to Police Scotland, the woman then contacted the PIRC. Following a CHR, the PIRC concluded that the complaint about missing information from the SPR had not been dealt with to a reasonable standard. The review recommended that Police Scotland should now provide the woman with a further response explaining why the SPR did not refer to the local authority upholding a complaint against the social worker.

In respect of the complaint about loss of evidence, the PIRC concluded that this had also not been dealt with to a reasonable standard and recommended that Police Scotland now:

  • record the allegation as a distinct complaint about the police;
  • obtain a further statement from the woman to ascertain exactly which documents she believes were provided to Police Scotland but not returned to her;
  • conduct enquiries to establish which documents were taken from the woman and which were returned to her; and
  • confirm whether the documents taken were lodged as productions in line with standard operating procedure;
  • consider whether any of the documents believed by the applicant to have been lost may have been contained in the file which has been confirmed as lost; and
  • issue a further response to the applicant to address this complaint, provide a position in respect of each of the above points and explain fully whatever conclusion is reached.

A third complaint that police officers did not keep the woman updated on the progress of the investigation was found to have been dealt with to a reasonable standard and no further action was required.

Four other CHRs were also published.

029.17 The complaints in this case arose from the applicant's arrest in connection with an alleged offence.

Two complaints were reviewed, namely: 1. that an officer was aggressive and cheeky to the applicant and lied to him on a few occasions; and, 2. that an unauthorised search of the applicant's flat took place while he was being detained.

The review found that one of the complaints was dealt with to a reasonable standard and one was not. One recommendation was made and a learning point was identified.

447.17 The complaints in this case arose from the applicant's detention by Police Scotland officers.

Seven complaints were considered, namely: 1. that the officers who detained the applicant did not afford her the opportunity to get changed and insisted that they would have to accompany her at all times; 2. that the officers who handcuffed her were rough when doing so; 3. that the applicant was asked for her personal details by the Custody Sergeant at the charge bar despite already having provided them to the officer who detained her; 4. that when being strip-searched the applicant's clothes were thrown on the floor; 5. that the applicant suffered a panic attack but a female custody officer took no action; 6. that the applicant was banging on the cell door trying to attract attention when the Custody Sergeant told her to "stop whinging"; and 7. that the police officers "wouldn't listen" to the applicant's story on the night she was arrested.

The review found that three complaints were dealt with to a reasonable standard while the remaining four complaints were not. Three recommendations and a learning point were made in this connection.

457.15 The complaints in this case arose from the applicant's telephone call to Police Scotland on 2 November 2014.

Three complaints were reviewed, namely: 1. that a 101 call handler mentioned information that should not have been known to the police; 2. that the call handler made an inappropriate comment; and 3. that two police officers told the applicant not to contact the police again and to drop her complaint against the NHS.

The review found that all three of the complaints were dealt with to a reasonable standard. One recommendation was made.

576.16 The complaints in this case arose from the applicant's concern that a Special Constable had followed members of his family.

One complaint was reviewed, namely that his complaint about a Special Constable following his family in 2014 was not suitably dealt with and fell below the standards expected.

The review found that the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard. One recommendation was made.

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