Annual report and accounts 2022-2023
I have pleasure in presenting my Annual Report as the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) for the year 2022-2023.
During 2022-2023, we welcomed the return to many working practices that had been paused as a result of the COVID pandemic. Face-to-face training, job interviews and meetings were all resumed. We held professional development days for each of our teams – investigations, reviews, and corporate services. We also participated in a successful joint PIRC and Police Scotland Professional Standards event.
Hybrid working is now business as usual with teams dividing their time between working remotely and in the office on a rotational basis. This provides many benefits, including greater flexibility for staff to balance their work/home commitments.
As highlighted last year, the workload of the PIRC Investigations team significantly increased as a result of the implementation of one of the recommendations of Dame Angiolini’s final report in November 2020 on Police Complaints Handling, Investigations and Misconduct Issues (the Dame Angiolini Report). This resulted in PIRC receiving all referrals for on-duty allegations of assault made against police officers and police staff.
To manage this increase, PIRC established a new Investigations Assessment Unit to consider all allegations of assault by police officers or staff. As detailed at page 13, in 2022-2023, PIRC received 911 referrals; the largest number that it has ever experienced. This is a 51% increase from 2021-2022.
The Investigations team was also instructed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to undertake three major and extensive investigations, including various aspects of the police involvement in relation to the tragic shooting that occurred in Skye in 2022, resulting in the death of one person and serious injuries to three others.
The substantial increase in referrals and the three major investigations impacted on the ability of the Investigations team to meet their Strategic Objective of submitting 80% of investigation reports within three months. This was, however, still achieved in 64% of all investigations.
Taking account of our increasing workload and the current challenging financial environment, to inform our strategic objectives going forward, we undertook a performance data and demand review of the operational functions of PIRC. The review included benchmarking with other similar oversight organisations and took account of delays out with the control of PIRC and the impact of major,extensive investigations.
The findings and recommendations of the review have informed our strategic objectives for 2023-2025. The revised Key Performance Indicators take account of the capacity of the organisation to meet current and future demands whilst also having a positive impact on staff wellbeing.
In relation to the other recommendations made in the Dame Angiolini Report, we have implemented all but one of the non-legislative recommendations. The remaining recommendation will be implemented in the forthcoming year. The Scottish Government has committed to the introduction of the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny (Scotland) Bill in 2023 to progress those recommendations that require legislation. It is likely that the Bill will further extend the remit of PIRC in some areas and introduce new responsibilities.
In 2022-2023, PIRC received 256 applications for Complaint Handling Reviews (CHRs). While this represents a slight decrease from the previous year - when we received 271 applications - this is against a background of an increase in the complexity of complaint cases and the average number of heads of complaint in each case. This year the team examined 953 individual complaint allegations. This is the highest number of individual complaints reviewed in a single year and represents a 17% increase on last year.
On a positive note, we continue to observe an improvement in Police Scotland’s handling of complaints from the public with 74% of complaints found to be reasonably handled by the police, the highest since the establishment of the single police service.
As a core participant to the Public Inquiry into the events surrounding the tragic death of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in 2015, PIRC continues to assist and support the Inquiry team. Having conducted a large-scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Bayoh’s death, PIRC amassed voluminous documentary and other evidence which has been shared with the Inquiry. We anticipate a number of our staff will be requested to attend and give evidence during the course of the hearings. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important work and are committed to implementing lessons or learning that may arise to better the service we provide to the public.
Overall, it has been another demanding year and I would like to thank the staff for their hard work and commitment and the management team and the Audit and Accountability Committee (AAC) for their oversight and support.