Posted: Monday 14 August 2017

SPA directed to reconsider complaints against senior officers of Police Scotland

The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has directed the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) to reconsider complaints against senior officers of Police Scotland.

The complainer originally raised concerns he had with Police Scotland about one of their departments. However after being dissatisfied with the way senior officers dealt with his correspondence, he then contacted the Scottish Police Authority.

The SPA deals with complaints about "senior officers" of the rank of Assistant Chief Constable and above.

In Complaint Handling Review (CHR) 395.16 which was published on Monday 14 August 2017, the organisation was asked to look at three complaints:

1. that the Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) was negligent in passing a letter in which concerns were raised about a particular department to the same department to deal with;

2. that the DCC was negligent in dismissing the man's claims and not dealing with the points raised in his letter about the department; and

3. that the Chief Constable was negligent in passing the man's letter of complaint about the DCC to the DCC to deal with.

The man asked the PIRC to carry out a review into the way the SPA handled his complaints as he was dissatisfied with the response from the organisation. 

The PIRC's review concluded that two of the complaints 1 and 3 - had not been handled to a reasonable standard and the PIRC issued the SPA with Reconsideration Directions to reassess the complaints and issue the man with a fresh response.

The SPA must now appoint a person who has not had any previous involvement in the original complaints and a report must be submitted to the PIRC upon completion.

The complaints arose after the man sent a letter to the DCC on 10 November 2015, raising various concerns about officers of Police Scotland's Professional Standards Department (PSD) in a particular part of the country. 

The letter was passed to a Superintendent in charge of the same department, and on 1 December 2015 he responded to the letter.

On 29 February 2016, the man  sent a letter to the Chief Constable complaining about the DCC's decision to pass his letter to the very department that he had raised concerns about. On 4 March 2016 an Inspector of the Chief Constable's secretariat wrote to the man advising that his letter of complaint to the Chief Constable had been passed to the DCC.

The man was sent a letter on 14 March 2016 by the Chief Superintendent of PSD nationally, in response to his letter to the Chief Constable. Two days later, the man wrote to the SPA outlining his complaints about the DCC and the Chief Constable.

He received a written response on 31 August 2016 from the SPA that his complaints were not upheld and he then contacted the PIRC.

In respect of Complaint 1, the PIRC review found that the SPA did not adhere to complaint handling protocol.

The review also found that neither the file provided to the PIRC nor the response issued to the man contained any reasoning as to why the SPA decided that the allegation would not, if proved, amount to misconduct. Additionally  the response contained no explanation of what enquiries were carried out, what facts were established, or how these facts led to the complaint not being upheld.

Accordingly, the PIRC review considered that the enquiry into the complaint was insufficient and the response inadequate.

With regard to Complaint 3, the review said that it was not acceptable to pass a letter of complaint about a police officer to that same individual for consideration. The report said that the PIRC would be contacting the Chief Constable and his secretariat to make this clear.

Furthermore, it stated that as the complaint was about a senior officer, it should have been sent to the SPA in the first instance in keeping with the PIRC's Statutory Guidance and Police Scotland's Standard Operating Procedure on Complaints About the Police.

The SPA have been told to send a fresh response to the man which addresses the issues raised in the PIRC review and fully explains the outcome of the reconsiderations. The report also said that the SPA should apologise to the man if it identifies any shortcomings.

Three other CHR's were also published.

In 249.16 the complaints arose from the complainer being denied a Taxi Driver's Licence.

Four complaints were considered:

1. that Police Scotland offered advice to a potential employer of the applicant's on the basis of intelligence which had not been investigated;

2. that the applicant had no opportunity to challenge the accuracy of the intelligence held;

3. that no procedure or guidance was available to officers of Police Scotland to enable them to make consistent and fair decisions; and

4. that Police Scotland's expression of this opinion, without the applicant being allowed to know the substance of the intelligence, was a violation of the applicant's human rights.

The review found that one complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard while the other three complaints were not. Two recommendations were made.

550.16 The complaints in this case arose from the theft of property from the complainer's home address.

Two complaints were considered, namely:

1. that, despite several requests, an officer failed to return goods belonging to the applicant; and

2. that an officer would not speak with the applicant at the front desk during her detention at the police office.

The review found that both complaints were handled to a reasonable standard. No recommendations were made.

In 087.17, the complaints arose from an investigation conducted into the applicant for alleged Data Protection offences.

A single complaint was considered, namely that Police Scotland had unlawfully delayed the investigation and subsequent report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in respect of the allegations made against him.

The review found that the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard. No recommendations were made.


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