Concerns over Police Scotland’s handling of complaints against officers ‘extremely serious’, says Humza Yousaf

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Concerns raised by a watchdog about the way Police Scotland investigates complaints against its own officers are “extremely serious”, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has said.

Kate Frame, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), last week told MSPs that Police Scotland was failing to refer criminal allegations against its officers to prosecutors.

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Picture: Getty Images

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Picture: Getty Images

And she said that during a rape investigation, a complaint against a serving officer was categorised as “incivility”.

After the Pirc’s intervention, the matter was reported by Police Scotland to the Crown Office as “an attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

When questioned about the Commissioner’s comments at the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Mr Yousaf said he was due to meet with Ms Frame later today.

Asked by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson if he agreed that an attempt to pervert the course of justice by a police officer was “an extremely serious matter,” the justice secretary said: “I agree the charge the Commissioner made is an extremely serious one.

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“I will listen very carefully to what the Commissioner has to say.”

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini is currently carrying out a review of police complaint procedures at the request of the Scottish Government.

Mr Yousaf told MSPs an interim report would be published in the spring.

In a letter sent to MSPs on the justice committee earlier this week, Ms Frame said: “I remain confident that the majority of police officers carry out their duty with integrity in highly challenging circumstances but that a number of cases have now come to light which calls into question Police Scotland’s willingness to exercise its discretion in a transparent and open manner.

“It is notable that in some incidents, the officers involved in events have themselves, self-referred to (Police Scotland’s) Professional Standards Department (PSD) and suggested that the incidents be referred for a Pirc investigation, but PSD has deemed that to be unnecessary.

“The question of police discretion in the above areas requires to be addressed to secure a level of reassurance and public confidence in the process. The evident resistance to that is disappointing.”

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “We have written to the justice committee setting out our position with regards to a number of inaccuracies contained within the evidence given by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

“The primary objective of our complaints handling procedures is to build trust and confidence in policing and all complaints are fully recorded and subject to fair and rigorous investigation.”