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Strategic Plan 2019–2022

01 Apr 2019

Commissoner's foreword

As my five year term as Commissioner draws to a close, I recognise that I have been privileged to lead the organisation through a period of profound change in policing and unprecedented demand for independent scrutiny of police actions. I am hopeful that as the organisation moves forward into the next phase, there will be further necessary refinement to the independent police oversight framework and I am pleased to present our priorities for 2019–2022 in this Strategic Plan.

These next three years will provide the opportunity to transform the way in which police actions are independently scrutinised in Scotland.

Our current operating model was established with some degree of haste in the wake of the decision to form a single Police Service of Scotland. Experience over the five years since then, has convinced me that further refinement of our remit and powers would be beneficial – a view we shared with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders during our 2016–2019 strategic cycle.

We therefore have welcomed the Justice Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 – which established our duty to investigate serious incidents involving the police – as we do Dame Elish Angiolini’s review of the police complaints system in Scotland. Both present opportunities to remedy inherent weaknesses in the current system and shape any future model. Last May we submitted our recommendations to the Committee, flagging areas that we believe would benefit from reform and
thereby strengthen our ability to perform our role. This year, we are furnishing Rt. Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini DBE, QC with additional evidence for her review.

Some of the topics we have raised, and anticipate that she will consider, include:

  • The level of discretion granted to Police Scotland in handling complaints
    against its officers

  • The powers afforded PIRC investigators in Crown-directed investigations

  • The powers afforded PIRC investigators in investigations against retired officers

  •  Increased engagement by PIRC investigators with victims and the families of those whose Article 2 or 3 human rights may have been breached

  • Increased compliance in policing and police oversight bodies with all human rights principles.

Clearly, each of these factors has the potential to affect the nature and volume of our work. However, at this time it is impossible to predict with any certainty when and to what extent that might be.

The outcomes of both these pieces of work will shape the future powers and remit of the Scottish model of independent police scrutiny. Parliament and public appetite will, of course, determine the pace of any recommended change. Nonetheless, I hope that the change process will begin within the period of this Plan and evolve to meet future public expectation.

In the meantime, with the public and media becoming ever more aware – and policing bodies more accepting – of our role, I expect the number of investigations and reviews referred to the organisation to rise yet further. While the team will always seek ways to work more efficiently, it is essential that adequate resources are made available to keep pace with this demand. To this end, the PIRC will continue to run its highly successful trainee programme, which allows continued growth of our talent pool of investigators by recruiting people with no previous policing background. The management team is also committed to developing the skills of all staff, through various training initiatives.

Indeed, it is precisely because of the support and dedication of our skilled staff that I am confident that the PIRC will embrace any programme of change that strengthens its ability to scrutinise police actions and improve police procedures. That in turn will give the public, increased confidence in policing in Scotland.

Kate Frame


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