Six-year low for claims of assault by police

Allegations of assault made against police officers are at a six-year low, new figures show.

Ten complaints of assault were found to be unsubstantiated or not proceeded with for lack of evidence. Picture: Julie Howden

Police dealt with 476 complaints during 2012-13, relating to on-duty officers being accused of assault.

But just four of these cases resulted in criminal proceedings, with one conviction.

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In 384 cases, the procurator fiscal decided no proceedings should be started against the officer concerned, while in 69 cases the allegation was later withdrawn by the complainer. A further three complaints were abandoned due to lack of co-operation from the complainer.

Ten complaints of assault were found to be unsubstantiated or not proceeded with for lack of evidence. Three were resolved after an explanation was given to the complainer and two were dealt with via alternative to prosecution. One complaint was found to be malicious.

The figures appear in a report on police complaints in the year running up to Scotland’s eight regional police forces merging into one national force. It was published by Professor John McNeill, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. Overall, there were 4,306 police complaint cases last year, comprising 7,893 allegations.

The number received was down 1.7 per cent on the total from 2011-12, with complaints falling in five of the eight force regions. Fife Police recorded 28.1 per cent fewer complaints, while Strathclyde Police had 16 per cent more. A total of 8,084 allegations against the police were dealt with in 2012-13, resulting in 38 criminal proceedings, 22 criminal convictions and 90 misconduct proceedings.

Almost two-fifths of the complaints dealt with involved allegations that on-duty officers had not followed procedures properly (38.7 per cent), such as not taking a detailed statement from a witness.

The second most common complaint was of officers being “uncivil” or rude, accounting for 15.5 per cent of all allegations last year. One in every ten allegations related to neglect of duty. Just 7 per cent of allegations were of assault by an officer, down from 21 per cent in 2007-08.

Almost half of the complaints against on-duty police that were dealt with were resolved by an explanation being given to the complainer about the reasons for the officer’s behaviour, while 28.2 per cent were found to be unsubstantiated or not upheld because of a lack of evidence.

A further 10.5 per cent of cases were closed when the procurator fiscal decided no criminal proceedings should be taken against the officer concerned.

Prof McNeill said: “This annual digest of police complaints statistics offers a valuable insight into the standard of services being provided by the police to the public. I hope that by the police recording this information and by my putting it into the public domain that the public can see complaints about police in Scotland are taken seriously.

“I am a firm believer that if a complaint raises wider or systemic issues then any lessons learned should be shared across the entire police service and not restricted to the area where the complaint originated.”