Police Scotland has been accused of secrecy over hate crime training material

The Tories said it appeared to be a ‘continuation of a culture of secrecy and spin’

Police Scotland has been accused of secrecy after again refusing to release its hate crime training material for officers and staff.

The force argued it was "in the process of being rolled out internally" and it would not be appropriate to release it prior to this being completed.

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It comes despite Chief Constable Jo Farrell telling ministers and officials at the end of April the number of officers who had completed the training was “reaching the upper achievable limit" due to absences and unavailability.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on April 1The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on April 1
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on April 1

In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Scotsman, Police Scotland also said it did not have an estimated timeline for when the roll-out of training would be completed.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: “SNP ministers caused mass public confusion and concern by peddling misinformation about their hate crime law, but it seems that lessons have still not been learned. Refusing to disclose such information seems to be a continuation of a culture of secrecy and spin, which risks damaging public trust in policing and the wider justice system.”

A FOI request previously submitted by The Scotsman asked Police Scotland for all training and guidance material that is being provided to officers and staff in relation to the Hate Crime Act, which came into force in April.

The force said it was “refusing to provide it”, adding: “I can confirm that the training in relation to the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 is in the process of being rolled out internally across the service. Accordingly, it is not appropriate for training materials intended to be delivered to staff and officers to be made publicly available prior to that structured learning program being completed."

Minutes from a meeting between Police Scotland and the Scottish Government on April 30 show Ms Farrell told ministers and officials that 87 per cent of officers had now completed hate crime training, adding: “Taking into consideration officers who are currently absent or unavailable, CC Farrell is of view that this is reaching the upper achievable limit.”

In light of this, The Scotsman asked again for the training material to be released, or for an estimated timeline for its release.

The force repeated its earlier response. It said: “Whilst I accept that there is a genuine public interest in openness and transparency around the steps being taken by Police Scotland in this area, that interest is wholly outweighed by the need to ensure that internal training is made available first and foremost to our officers and staff as intended, in accordance with the training timetable.”

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Police Scotland said it did not have “an estimated timeline for when the role out [sic] of training will be completed”.

The force previously said its training package had been developed “in close consultation with stakeholders to ensure all characteristics protected by legislation under the new Act are clearly represented and articulated, and that officers are best prepared when they respond to hate crimes and incidents”.

It added: “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation and officers balance the protections people have under human rights legislation against other laws every day. Our training for the new Act therefore reminds officers of their human rights obligations and it reflects all aspects of the new legislation, including the protection it includes around freedom of expression.”