New legislation aims to prevent officers resigning during misconduct proceedings

Police officers will no longer be able to resign to avoid disciplinary proceedings under proposed new laws in Scotland.

Jun 7, 2023
By Paul Jacques

The Scottish government’s Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to Parliament with the aim of ensuring allegations of misconduct are dealt with more transparently and effectively.

It also aims to strengthen public confidence in standards of police conduct.

If passed by MSPs, the legislation would also see the outcomes of misconduct hearings published online and stop officers guilty of gross misconduct from being re-employed in policing by placing them on barred lists.

Officers facing an allegation of misconduct will be put on an advisory list to ensures they can no longer resign to avoid being held to account for gross misconduct allegations.

The new arrangements will be underpinned by placing the code of ethics, which sets out expectations of behaviour, in statute.

To oversee these standards, the role of the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) will be significantly enhanced.

The Scottish government said the Bill will deliver the majority of the remaining legislative recommendations made by former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, in her independent review into how police complaints and allegations of misconduct should be handled.

Figures published earlier this year after a Freedom of Information request by BBC Newsnight revealed 47 officers in Scotland had resigned or retired during misconduct proceedings against them since 2019, while there were 332 allegations of gross misconduct and 1,182 misconduct complaints.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs Angela Constance said: “Scotland is well served by the exceptional dedication and commitment of Scotland’s police officers and the work they do every day to keep communities safe.

“However, if things go wrong, the police must be held to account and improvements made. The principle of policing by consent, so central to our justice system, is built on this accountability. It is also in the interests of both the public and of the policing family.

“This Bill, if passed, will help strengthen public confidence for example by ensuring officers can no longer resign to avoid being held to account for gross misconduct allegations against them.

“The vital safeguards set out in this legislation will enhance the professional service already delivered by officers, as they perform their privileged duties to keep us all safe.”

In England and Wales, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 extends the disciplinary system to former officers, so the proceedings continue even if the officer leaves their post.

The Scottish government says its Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill builds on the “significant non-legislative improvements” already implemented by policing partners.

A review was commissioned in 2018, five years after the creation of Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the PIRC, to look at how the structures and processes for complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues were developing around the unified police service, which marked its tenth anniversary in April this year.

The review sought to bring greater fairness, transparency, accountability, and proportionality to the police complaints process, while protecting the human rights of everyone involved.

Related News

Copyright © 2024 Police Professional