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Annual report and accounts 2021-2022

21 Nov 2022

Commissioner's foreword

I have pleasure in presenting my Annual Report as the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) for the year 2021-2022.

The last 12 months continued to be dominated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which, in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines, resulted in staff continuing to work remotely for approximately 75% of the year. However, as the vaccine programme rolled out and restrictions were relaxed, PIRC transitioned to a hybrid working model with teams dividing their time between working remotely and in the office on a rotational basis.

Prior to the implementation of the hybrid working model, a staff survey was issued to capture any concerns. Taking account of the survey results and all relevant guidance, the Covid working group, which included staff and trade union representatives, issued guidance on the practicalities and application of the hybrid model prior to staff returning to the office. The guidance has been embedded into business as usual and is regularly reviewed. It is credit to the engagement of the Covid working group and the business continuity group that the transition was seamless.

Looking to the future, my desire is to capture the learning identified during this transition to ensure that the benefits realised through remote working, including the necessity to develop a more agile and flexible work force, are maintained and embedded.

As highlighted in last year’s report, the publication of Dame Elish Angiolini’s final report in November 2020 on police complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues (the Dame Angiolini Report) resulted in the creation of a number of partnership groups. These groups focussed on delivering the wide-ranging recommendations aimed at improving accountability and the overall culture within policing. An update on PIRC’s implementation of those recommendations, that do not require legislation, is provided at page 8.

During this year, the work load of the PIRC Investigations team significantly increased. This is primarily due to the implementation of recommendation 47 of the Dame Angiolini Report. Its impact is highlighted in the Investigations section at page 12.

Overall, there were 602 referrals to the PIRC Investigations team, 357 from Police Scotland and 245 from Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which resulted in a total of 124 full investigations being conducted.

In terms of performance, despite the increasing workload, the investigations team achieved their strategic objectives with 85% of investigation reports being submitted to the referring body within three months and 97% of all referrals being assessed and a decision taken within five days of receipt of all relevant information.

Overall, the number of requests for complaint handling reviews (CHRs) remained steady. We found that 68% of complaints from members of the public were reasonably handled by the police, a slight dip from 71% in 2020-2021 which was the highest percentage since the inception of the single police service eight years ago.

Whilst the strategic objective to conclude reviews in 80% of cases within four months was not met, it continues to reflect a positive trend, increasing from 38% last year to 73% this year.

Working with our stakeholders remains an important focus and it came to the fore in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, hosted in Glasgow in November 2021. The preparation and participation of PIRC involved significant numbers of staff and resources. Our role is expanded upon at page 16 of the report.

On 12 November 2019, the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, announced that a public inquiry would be held to examine the events surrounding the death of Sheku Bayou, the subsequent investigation and whether race was a factor. PIRC involvement in the investigation of the death of Sheku Bayoh began with an instruction from COPFS on 3 May 2015 to investigate the interaction between the police and Sheku Bayoh at the time of his arrest and the events thereafter. PIRC undertook an extensive investigation. This included obtaining several hundred witness statements; examining seven separate incident scenes; and recovering in excess of 900 productions. As a consequence, PIRC holds a significant amount of relevant material that should be placed before the Inquiry. It is for this reason that PIRC has been designated as a core participant.

A PIRC public inquiry team was established and throughout 2021-2022 the team has been actively engaged in the preparation, presentation and disclosure of relevant material to the Inquiry. PIRC welcomes this important public inquiry and is committed to implementing the lessons or learning that may arise from its findings. Following the publication of Dame Angolini’s preliminary report, PIRC transitioned the Audit and Accountability Committee (AAC) to a formal structure with a Chair and five non-executive members, all with relevant and diverse expertise and skills. The appointments were made through a transparent, fair and open competitive selection process which included Scottish Government representation on the appointments panel.

PIRC recognises and welcomes the critical importance of having an oversight body that is able to provide robust challenge, scrutiny and support. An external perspective to the consideration of corporate management issues such as risk management and governance, annual accounts, internal audit reports, key performance indicators and relations with stakeholders, is vital for PIRC.

I thank the members of our AAC for their continued support and constructive challenge over the last year. In another unprecedented and difficult year, where we continued to deliver our core functions and provide robust scrutiny of policing in Scotland, my management team and staff deserve much recognition for their hard work, commitment and dedication.

Michelle Macleod


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