Recommendations made by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) following an apparent family dispute have now been implemented by Police Scotland.

A woman who was detained for questioning for alleged threatening behaviour towards her sister, approached the PIRC for a Complaint Handling Review (CHR 447/16) after being dissatisfied with the response to her complaints to police.

The PIRC review noted that during her arrest in March 2016 the woman showed obvious distress as she was being charged and refused to comply with police risk assessment procedures or to confirm her personal details. Subsequently, her clothing was removed and she was placed in a cell under constant observations until she had calmed enough to be interviewed.

Following her release, the applicant contacted Police Scotland and made a formal complaint about the treatment she had received throughout her time in police custody.

Her complaints included:

  1. that the officers who detained her did not afford her the opportunity to get changed and insisted they would have to accompany her at all times;
  2. that the officers who handcuffed her were rough when doing so;
  3. that she was asked for her personal details by the Custody Sergeant at the charge bar despite already having provided them to the officer who detained her;
  4. that when being strip-searched her clothes were thrown on the floor;
  5. that she suffered a panic attack but a female custody officer took no action;
  6. that she was banging on the cell door trying to attract attention when the Custody Sergeant told her to “stop whinging”; and
  7. that the police officers “wouldn’t listen” to the applicant’s story on the night she was arrested.

The CHR found that three complaints (one, three and seven) were handled to a reasonable standard, while four complaints were not.

With regards to the woman’s complaint of being handcuffed roughly the PIRC recommended that a further account be obtained from the constable involved, addressing specifically why he found it necessary to handcuff her during her detention. A further response was thereafter sent to the woman.

The woman had also complained about her clothes being thrown on the floor and it was recommended that a further response be sent explaining why she was not permitted to remove her clothing by herself.

Furthermore, with regards to the complaint about no action being taken during an apparent panic attack, it was again recommended that a further response be sent to the woman with more information, including further evidence not included in the original complaint response.

Although it was found that the woman’s complaint that she was told to “stop whinging” was not dealt with to a reasonable standard, no recommendation was made as sufficient evidence existed to support Police Scotland’s conclusion to the complaint.

Finally, a learning point (a suggestion made to improve or review police standard operating procedures or policies) was identified for Police Scotland concerning the woman being asked to confirm her details despite having previously providing them to the arresting officers. As the woman had already provided the relevant details within her home and was already detained by the time she was presented at the charge bar, and as the requirement for her details to be inserted into the relevant forms was procedural rather than legislative, it did not necessarily follow that when she refused to confirm these details to the Custody Sergeant that she committed an offence.

All recommendations made in this case have now been implemented.

In a second review (CHR 484.16) the complaints arose from a man’s interview under caution for drugs offences. Three complaints were considered: 1. that the man was not provided with sufficient time to arrange legal representation; 2. that he was not cautioned in respect of a number of criminal allegations which he was subsequently questioned on; and 3. that he was told he would be detained if he did not attend voluntarily for an interview despite there being  insufficient grounds to detain him.

The review found that complaints 1 and 3 were handled to a reasonable standard while complaint 2 was not. A reconsideration direction was issued in this connection. This has since been completed with the police finding that the man should have been cautioned in respect of each allegation. Police Scotland has now upheld the complaint and apologised to the man.

The complaints in CHR 538.16 arose from a man’s contact with Police Scotland during a family dispute. Five complaints were reviewed: 1. that an officer failed to pass information to the Procurator Fiscal; 2. that an officer carried out insufficient enquiry before reporting the man to the Procurator Fiscal; 3. that an officer incorrectly advised the man that only Police Scotland knew he had been arrested; 4. that an officer provided guidance during the enquiry to a third party who was known to the officer personally; 5. that a Police Scotland form signed by the man’s wife was subsequently amended.

The review found that complaints 2, 4 and 5 were dealt with to a reasonable standard but complaints 1 and 3 were not. In respect of complaint 1, the PIRC recommended that the police reassess and send a further response to the man. In relation to complaint 3, the PIRC recommended that the police seek a further account from the officer involved and then provide the man with a further response. Both recommendations have since been implemented and Police Scotland has now upheld complaint 1, apologised to the man and given corrective advice to the officer involved.