Commissioner criticises Fife police over complaint delays

The police investigations and review commissioner has criticised the former Fife Constabulary for the time it took to request an independent review.

John McNeill criticised how Fife Constabulary's officers handled complaints from a member of the public in relation to a theft allegation.

Between July and September 2012 the man dealt with five inspectors, one sergeant and five officers.

He also dealt with the force's own professional standards department.

The force itself acknowledged it was "completely disproportionate".

No evidence

The man had been subject to a police investigation over property he had that belonged to his former partner and whether it being held by him amounted to theft or if it was a civil matter.

It then took Fife Constabulary from November 2012 until February 2013 to ask the then Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland, (now the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner) to review the way it handled the man's complaints.

During the two and half month period there was "no evidence" of any work having been done to address the concerns expressed by the complainer in respect of Fife Constabulary's response to the complaint.

In his report published this week, the commissioner observed that this "did not represent efficient complaints handing".

The commissioner's full review report found three out of five of the man's complaints had been handled reasonably by the police.

Learning points

However, in a further two, involving alleged incivility and disrespectful manner, the commissioner found the officers involved were not given sufficient information to allow them to understand precisely what was being alleged and as such it was not surprising that in both cases the information they provided was limited.

The commissioner has asked Police Scotland to carry out further enquiries and write to the man concerned with their findings.

Professor John McNeill said: "There are two learning points for the police arising from this case.

"First, when obtaining operational statements from officers who are the subject of complaints they must be fully informed of the nature of the allegations against them.

"Otherwise the officers cannot be expected to address the specific concerns expressed by the complainer.

"Secondly, any decision to refer complaints to me must be made timeously.

"In this case it took from November 2012 until February 2013 for Fife Constabulary to ask me to conduct a review, that does not represent efficient complaints handling."

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