A visit from our Scottish counterpart

6 Sep 2016

A visit from our Scottish counterpart.

The Ombudsman Commission was delighted to meet this morning with Kate Frame, the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner for Scotland (PIRC).

The PIRC is the Garda Ombudsman’s counterpart in Scotland.

Up until April 2013, it was called the Police Complaints Commissioner, but the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 extended the organisation’s remit to include independent investigations into the most serious incidents involving the police. (This is similar to GSOC’s responsibility to investigate matters where death or serious harm has occurred following police contact.) The organisation was renamed the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner to reflect this change.
Ms Frame has been Commissioner since August 2014. She joined the organisation from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), where she was head of the Criminal Allegations against the Police Division. The PIRC does not consider complaints alleging criminal behaviour, as the Garda Ombudsman does. These complaints are dealt with by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Some other key differences in the way the Scottish oversight body works:

  • There, complaints made about police officers or civilian staff members are handled through the same system (here the Garda Ombudsman may only deal with complaints about police officers).
  • There, complaints are all dealt with initially by the policing body. (There are several policing bodies in Scotland, not just one.) The PIRC reviews the way a complaint was handled, should a complainant be dissatisfied. They can only look into a complaint after it has been investigated fully by the police.
  • The PIRC has a quality assurance role, ensuring that policing bodies in Scotland have suitable arrangements in place for handling complaints about the police, learn lessons when something has gone wrong and continuously look for ways to improve the way they work. This is similar to GSOC’s responsibility to carry out examinations of Garda practice, policy and procedure, with a view to preventing or reducing complaints, but goes beyond this.

There are also, nonetheless, many elements in common between the two oversight agencies. Discussing these and learning from each other’s approaches to different matters was on the agenda for this morning’s meeting. The Ombudsman Commission considers that being up to date on the implementation of oversight in other countries is important to ensure best practice and to inform future actions.