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Chamber and committees

Criminal Justice Committee


Session 5 Justice Sub-Committee on Policing Legacy Report

Letter from the Scottish Police Authority to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, Thursday 27 May 2021


Dear Convener

Session 5: Justice Sub-Committee on Policing Legacy Report and Report on Police Scotland's use of Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems and Body Worn Video Cameras

I refer to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing’s Legacy Report from Session 5 and its report on Police Scotland’s use of remote piloted aircraft systems and body worn video cameras.

I would first like to record my appreciation to the members of the former Justice Sub-Committee on Policing for their consideration and reporting during the previous parliamentary session on the operation of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 as it relates to policing. The challenge and insight provided over the initial formative years have undoubtedly led to further improvements in policing practices and in the oversight provided by the Scottish Police Authority (the Authority).

This correspondence is the Authority’s response to the themes raised in both reports. It highlights the work that the Authority has undertaken, or is planning to undertake, to address the issues raised.

Authority oversight

The Authority’s oversight, support and scrutiny of policing is proportionate, measured and transparent. We will focus on matters of public interest or where significant risk has been identified. This oversight extends beyond the procedures set out in the Authority’s Corporate Governance Framework and supporting scheme of financial delegation (the thresholds of which are in line with the Scottish Public Finance Manual and procurement best practice).

In my evidence to the Justice Sub-Committee on 15 March 20213, I highlighted the intention of the Authority and Police Scotland to agree a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will ensure early visibility and oversight of new and emerging strategy, policy or practice under consideration by Police Scotland. I am pleased to report that we expect this to be finalised and published in the coming weeks and will share this with the committee in due course.

The MoU will apply to all novel deployments and technologies. The Authority will focus particularly on significant equalities, human rights, privacy or ethical concerns raised, or will have a significant impact on public perceptions of, or confidence in, policing regardless of the financial implications. The intended benefit of any new and emerging strategy, policy or practice will be clearly set out by Police Scotland. Our objective is for the Authority’s oversight to be part of a public-facing development process whenever appropriate rather than purely as a result of reaching a financial threshold. The agreement will provide appropriate opportunities for public discussion, local engagement and formal oversight and review. It aims to ensure that potential impacts on our rights, for example rights to safety and privacy, are considered, and that there is sufficient engagement by Police Scotland with stakeholders and the public to inform the development process.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

With regard to RPAS, commonly known as drones, the Authority’s review of this technology has been extensive to date and will continue. Most recently, on 9 March 2021, the Authority’s Policing Performance Committee4 considered Police Scotland’s re-submitted evaluation of the use of RPAS as well as accompanying and updated Equalities and Human Rights Impact Assessment, Data Protection Impact Assessment and the Civil Aviation Authority’s oversight report. The work to develop a Police Scotland Code of Practice on the use of RPAS was discussed and again welcomed. In advance of the Code of Practice being considered by the Authority’s Policing Performance Committee, Police Scotland’s RPAS deployments, beyond missing person investigations, must be deemed necessary and proportionate, and subject to an authorisation process by a senior officer. The Committee was also given an unambiguous commitment from Police Scotland that drones will not be used for any covert operations.

In paragraph 74 of the Sub-Committee’s report on ‘Police Scotland’s use of remote piloted aircraft systems and body worn video cameras’ and with regards to drones, it is requested that it is for ‘the SPA to clarify how the terms of reference for the evaluation agreed by the SPA Board were changed and whether any processes have been changed to avoid a similar situation occurring in future.’ I can confirm that the criteria set out by the Strategy Policy and Performance Committee in May 20195 were not changed from those initially agreed. The Authority’s Policing Performance Committee requested the evaluation report, presented in November 2020, be resubmitted to provide detail on the wider operational deployment of RPAS over the evaluation period and further clarity offered on the privacy, human rights and other ethical considerations.

Body Worn Video (BWV)

The use of Body Worn Video (BWV) is widespread across UK policing. The benefits to effective policing of the current limited use in Scotland have previously been evaluated positively. The Authority and Police Scotland consider there is very good evidence of the benefits associated with the introduction of BWV. There is evidence of increased officer safety, reduced public harm, increased efficiency in the criminal justice system leading to reduced time and costs to the wider policing system.

The Authority supports the roll out of BWV to Police Scotland’s armed officers in advance of the COP26 conference in November. The Authority and Police Scotland have also co-produced a Joint Strategic Statement of Commitments in relation to the use of BWV in Scotland. This statement provides a framework when considering any future or additional provision of BWV in Police Scotland. It demonstrates the potential benefits of BWV to the outcomes set out in the Joint Strategic Police Plan6 and states the importance of embracing new technologies whilst ensuring a strong and consistent internal and external oversight that is open to scrutiny and maintains public trust. I have attached this statement of commitment at Appendix A for information.

The Authority’s Policing and Performance Committee will consider an update on BWV in relation to engagement, evaluation and business case development at its meeting on 8 June 2021.

Engagement on new and emerging technology

I welcome the Committee’s recommendations regarding engagement and consultation, particularly with regards to new and emerging technology. Police Scotland should have access to the most appropriate modern equipment, optimising technological advancements to improve the safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities. There are always ethical, equalities, human rights and privacy judgments when considering change. The Authority will continue to assure itself that Police Scotland conducts appropriate and effective engagement with a range of stakeholders prior to adoption of new technologies and that public engagement, underpinned by prerequisite impact assessments, is undertaken to inform the case for change and proposed development process. The Authority will also maintain a particular focus on engagement with local police scrutiny panels.

On 13 April 2021, I chaired a joint SPA/Police Scotland engagement session with Local Authority Scrutiny Convenors on the subject of drones, BWV and Tasers. This included presentations by Police Scotland on each technology followed by questions and discussion. Scrutiny Convenors provided valuable feedback on each area and I was encouraged by the support that elected representatives had or the use of these technologies by Police Scotland in their areas. It is my intention to run similar sessions on policing matters in the future.

In addition, the Authority is also actively engaged with the work of Dr Aston’s Independent Advisory Group on New and Emerging Technologies in Policing.

Data protection

On the subject of data protection, as part of our internal audit annual plan, the Authority has committed to undertake an independent internal audit to ‘assess
SPA and PS compliance with data protection legislation, including information storage and retention arrangements’. This work was included in the Internal Audit Plan7 which was presented to and approved by the Authority at its meeting on 24 February 2021.

I trust this information is helpful and I am of course happy to discuss this further with you at any time.

Yours sincerely

Martyn Evans
Chair

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Annexe A

Appendix A


Related correspondences

Criminal Justice Committee

Remote piloted aircraft systems and body worn video cameras

Letter from the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 5 May 2021

Criminal Justice Committee

Police Scotland's use of remote piloted aircraft systems and body-worn video cameras

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 17 May 2021

Criminal Justice Committee

Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Letter from Police Scotland to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 31 May 2021