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Police 'inappropriately recorded' allegations against officers

SMPs shine spotlight on police after details emerge of incorrectly-recorded allegations.

Police: An unlawful detention was falsely recorded (file pic).
Police: An unlawful detention was falsely recorded (file pic). ©SNS Group

Police Scotland bosses have been accused of having "inappropriately recorded" allegations made against officers.

Kate Frame, the police investigations and review commissioner (Pirc), told MSPs that when someone complained of being "unlawfully detained" by police, it was treated as a "quality of service complaint".

In another example, she said an allegation of someone being punched in the face by a police officer was recorded as them having used "excessive force" instead of an assault.

She also appeared to indicate that Police Scotland had recorded an allegation of rape as "incivility" - although her office later clarified this was not the case after the force insisted this was "categorically incorrect".

Ms Frame made the allegations when giving evidence to MSPs on Holyrood's Justice Committee, who are examining the impact of the legislation used to create a nationwide Scottish police force.

She explained Pirc could be contacted to review complaints against police if the person making the allegations was not satisfied with the response from the force.

In a submission to MSPs ahead of the meeting, it said "several instances have been identified where Police Scotland has failed to refer criminal allegations against officers to the COPFS as required, or attempted to deal with serious and complex complaints via 'frontline resolution' (a process that should be used only for minor and straightforward complaints)".

'Had the complainers not had the option of coming through the complaint handling process we would have been none the wiser'
Kate Frame, Pirc

Ms Frame said she had concerns about the "level of police discretion, which continues to allow them to investigate some of their own actions".

She said: "Recently, we've seen some evidence of serious criminal allegations which have been inappropriately recorded.

"We have examples of a complaint where someone had been unlawfully detained. That was recorded by the police as a quality of service complaint.

"There is another example of an allegation of rape, that was recorded as incivility.

"There is a further example of someone who had been punched twice on the face that was recorded by the police as excessive force rather than assault."

She added: "So in all of those cases, the only reason and the only way in which we found out about how the recording process had taken place was because the complainers had made a complaint to the police, which had been dealt with, they felt dissatisfied and they came to us seeking a complaint handling review.

"At that stage we were able to refer the matter to Crown Office for their instructions in relations to the criminality involved.

"So had the complainers not had the option of coming through the complaint handling process we would have been none the wiser."

A Pirc spokeswoman later clarified: "What the commissioner was referring to was that in the course of an alleged rape investigation a complaint was made against a serving police officer which was categorised by Police Scotland as 'incivility'.

"After the PIRC's intervention, the matter was reported by Police Scotland to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) as an 'attempt to pervert the course of justice' by a serving police officer."

Alan Speirs, assistant chief constable professionalism and assurance, said: "During evidence to the Justice Committee, the PIRC commissioner provided an example of a rape complaint being recorded by Police Scotland as incivility.

"This is categorically incorrect. The allegation was recorded by Police Scotland as rape and thoroughly investigated."

He added: "Police Scotland categorically rejects the assertion made by the Commissioner that any failure to report matters is due to 'sinister aspects'.

"Police Scotland deals with over 6000 complaints annually and all complaints against the police are fully recorded and subject to fair and rigorous investigation."

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