Police Investigations and Complaints Commissioner resources ‘stretched to the limit’ by increased workload

Written by Jenni Davidson on 6 February 2018 in News

PIRC commissioner Kate Frame has said that shortage of resources had “undoubtedly” impacted on the speed of investigations

Commissioner Kate Frame - Image credit: PIRC

An increase in complex cases has left the Police Investigations and Complaints Commissioner (PIRC) “stretched to the limit” and caused delays to investigations being completed, the commissioner, Kate Frame, has told the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

Committee convener Margaret Mitchell had written to Frame to find out about resources over concerns at the length of time some investigations were taking.

There have been particular concern about the length of time allegations of gross misconduct against the chief constable of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley, have taken to be resolved.

The first gross misconduct investigation into the chief constable was launched in July last year and is not complete yet – although four more investigations into gross misconduct complaints against the Police Scotland chief have been added since then.

In her written response to the committee’s letter, Frame told the committee that her team of 30.6 FTE staff were currently carrying out 31 live investigations, some of which required over 100 witness statements.

The investigations include allegations of criminality against police officers, investigations into deaths in police custody and misconduct investigations against senior officers.

Frame said that “the continuous growth in investigations referred to me throughout not only 2016 but also 2017-18 has made it particularly difficult to deliver our investigation reports as quickly as I would have liked.”

She added that there were issues not only with the “sustained volume increase”, but also the “increased complexity and resource intensive nature of investigations referred by the Crown”.

PIRC’s annual report for 2016/17 shows an increase of 34 per cent in the number of cases it was investigating and a 52 per cent rise in the number of cases referred by the Crown Office.

“Whilst I am sure that you will recognise that that percentage increase is significant in itself, the level and detailed nature of the investigative work required in these matters is critical,” she said.

Frame said she had raised the issue of increased workload “on several occasions” with her sponsor team at the Scottish Government and said that the shortage of resources in 2017 had “undoubtedly” had an impact on the speed with which her team could complete its work.

In November, the Scottish Government offered PIRC an extra £100,000 on a one-off basis for this financial year and has since confirmed an £1,068,000 increase to the PIRC budget for next year.

Following confirmation of the extra budget, Frame said she will recruit extra staff, who are expected to be in place by April 2018.

Frame said: "I trust that this letter gives you some indication of the acute pressure that staff here have been working under, in order to meet the ever increasing demand placed on this organisation and provide you with some reassurance that these demands have now been recognised by the latest funding allocation."

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: "Liberal Democrats have regularly asked whether PIRC has the resources it needs to get through its mountain of work.

“Now we learn that its investigations, which include the probes into the conduct of the Chief Constable, have been held back by a lack of resources.

"While the Scottish Government has now given it a fresh financial package, it is clear that PIRC could have done with this much earlier.

“The police officers and members of the public waiting for news on their cases will be disappointed to learn that the Commission's work has been hampered for the last year.

"PIRC does critical work and SNP ministers must take responsibility for the delay to these cases."

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