Complaint Handling Review - FAQs

We carry out independent reviews of how policing bodies operating in Scotland handle complaints made about them by members of the public.

Please use our frequently asked questions to better understand what we can and cannot do.

Complaint Handling Review - FAQs

  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Police Authority
  • British Transport Police
  • British Transport Police Authority
  • Civil Nuclear Constabulary
  • Civil Nuclear Police Authority
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • The National Crime Agency Units
  • HM Revenue & Customs

If you would like us to review how the police handled your complaint, you should submit a completed complaint handling review application within three months of the date on which the police contacted you with their final response to your complaint.

If we can help, we will ask you to confirm which of the complaints you made to the policing body you would like us to review.

During the review, we will consider the facts of your case and review all the information provided by you and the policing body.

We will consider whether the policing body carried out sufficient enquiries into your complaint, look at how it reached its conclusion, examine the evidence on which the conclusion was based and decide whether or not the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard.

We will keep you regularly updated on our progress during your review and will be in contact at least once every six weeks.  

At the end of our review process, we will send you a copy of our report.

In order for us to carry out a Complaint Handling Review, we need you to provide us with your original complaint and the reason(s) why you are unhappy with the final response from the policing body. Try to be as specific as possible.

We do not need you to explain the background to your complaint in your application.

If you need help completing the form you could ask a family member or friend to help you.

You can also ask someone represent you during the review process, such as an advocate or solicitor. If you want someone to represent you, you need to submit a consent form with the final application. You will be guided to where you can download this form, once you start the application process.

You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor who may be able to help you. We offer various contact details of support organisations that may also be able to offer you assistance.

No. We cannot review how your complaint was handled by a policing body without your personal details. 

We need to have information about you and your complaint as well as your authorisation to speak to the policing body concerned about your complaint. 

You should also be aware that we may publish our Complaint Handling Review reports on our website. These reports are anonymised.

We will request the case papers relating to your complaint from the policing body involved. We examine the facts of the case and will consider whether or not the information available supports your complaint. 

We will also look at the policing body's response to you and consider whether this addresses your complaint. We will then form a view on whether the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard.

The outcome of your Complaint Handling Review will be explained in a report which will be sent to both you and the policing body. Any police officer or member of civilian staff involved in the complaint will be informed of the outcome of the PIRC review.

Probably not. The Commissioner is only personally involved in reviews that are considered to raise the most serious issues. For cases that are not considered to fall into this category, we operate a scheme of delegation whereby cases are delegated to senior staff. 

Our aim is to assess and make a decision whether we can help with your request within five working days.

We will then contact the policing body and request the background papers.

Once they are received, we will make an assessment to determine to progress with your application. You will be notified of our decision in writing.

If we decide to progress your application, we will determine a final list of complaints to review - these are called heads of complaints. You will be asked to agree this list.

Once these steps are completed, we will progress with your review. From this point, we aim to complete the review and issue the final report to you within 90 working days.

However, as each case is different the time taken to review it will vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the complaint or the volume of information we receive from you and the policing body involved.

No. While we publish a summarised version of most of our Complaint Handling Review reports on our website, personal details such as names and addresses are anonymised.

No. PIRC is impartial and independent. We do not represent you or any policing body. We review how complaints have been handled in an independent, open and fair manner.

No. We cannot ask any policing body to award you compensation.

There is no statutory oversight of PIRC. Therefore, the Commissioner’s decisions, findings and conclusions are final.

However, you can consult your local Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor about any further action which may be available.

Please do not include any personal information, for example information about a complaint or investigation you are involved in. If you would like to share any important information with us, please visit our Contact us page to find out how to get in touch.