Before you contact the PIRC, we recommend that you read this section carefully to make sure that you have completed all the necessary steps in order for us to assist you.

If you haven’t already made your complaint to the police body concerned, you will need to do so before contacting the PIRC.

Find contact details for police bodies operating in Scotland here.

If I want to make a complaint about a police body, what should I do?

You should first make your complaint to the Professional Standards Department of the police body concerned and allow them to deal with your complaint before you contact the PIRC.  Click here for contact details of the police bodies that operate in Scotland

Once you have received the final response to your complaint from the police body concerned and if you are dissatisfied with the way your complaint has been handled, you can then ask the PIRC to undertake a Complaint Handling Review (CHR).

If you wish to request a CHR, you should complete and submit an application form to the PIRC.  You can do this online here or you can download/ask us to send you a copy which you can post back to us.

You should specifically identify on the application form which of the complaints you made to the police body that you would like us to review.

By signing the application form or clicking the digital signature box, you agree that we can ask the police body to provide us with any information it has about your complaint(s).

If we need further information to help us consider your application we will let you know what else we need you to submit.

Once we have considered the information in your application form and decided that it may be eligible for review, we will ask the police body to send us all the available information about your case. When this information has been provided, we will then let you know whether we are able to review your complaint.

What can the PIRC review?

If you have made a complaint about an individual police officer or civilian staff member from any of the police bodies operating in Scotland and you are dissatisfied with how that police body dealt with your complaint, we can review how that body handled your complaint. We cannot review the original complaint itself.

Who can apply for a Complaint Handling Review?

You can apply for a CHR if you are:

  • The person in relation to whom the alleged failing occurred.
  • Any other person who claims to be adversely affected by the alleged failing.
  • Any person who claims to have witnessed the alleged failing.
  • A person acting on behalf of any of the above.

Which police bodies can I ask PIRC to carry out a Complaint Handling Review about?

The PIRC can review how the following Scottish police bodies handled your complaint :

  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Police Authority (SPA)

In addition, the PIRC can review how the following UK-wide police bodies handled your complaint, if at the relevant time they were operating in Scotland:

  • British Transport Police
  • British Transport Police Authority
  • Civil Nuclear Constabulary
  • Civil Nuclear Police Authority
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • The National Crime Agency
  • The Home Office
  • HM Revenue & Customs

Are there any circumstances where the PIRC may not be able to consider my application?

  • If we receive your request for a review after three months have passed, we may be unable to consider your case.
  • We do not have the power to review how complaints were handled by the police body if the complaints allege criminality. These complaints are considered by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • We also cannot review complaints from individuals serving with the police about their terms and conditions of employment.

Although we can review how your complaint has been handled, we do not carry out further investigation into your original complaint.  Find out more about our review process and possible outcomes of a review here. 

If your complaint is about something that we cannot review, we will try to point you to another organisation that may be able to help you.  View our list of useful contacts and websites.

For further information on the remit and powers of the PIRC in relation to reviews, please see the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006, as amended by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

Is the PIRC independent of the police?

The Commissioner, who is appointed by Scottish Ministers, is independent of the police and delivers a free and impartial service. The role of the PIRC is to independently investigate incidents involving the police and independently review the way the police handle complaints from the public. The aim is to secure public confidence in policing in Scotland.

Click here for further details.

Is there a time limit for bringing complaints to the PIRC?

Yes. If you want us to undertake a Complaint Handling Review (CHR) you must submit a completed review application form to us within three months of the date on which the police contacted you with the final outcome of your complaint. If we receive your request for a review after three months have passed, we may be unable to consider your case unless we are satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances for the delay.

What are the possible outcomes of a Complaint Handling Review?

After reviewing how your complaint was handled by the police body we may consider that:

  • your complaint was handled reasonably.
  • your complaint was not handled reasonably.
  • recommendations should be made to the police body.
  • a Reconsideration Direction should be issued to the police body.
  • a Learning Point should be issued to the police body.

 For more information go to the section on Possible Outcomes of a review.