Criminal Justice Committee
Criminal Justice Committee Evidence Sessions on Violence Against Women and Girls
Letter from Police Scotland to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 28 January 2022
Thank you for the opportunity to provide evidence to the Committee on 15 December 2021 and for your letter dated 21 December 2021.
Police Scotland is resolute in our determination to tackle violence against women and girls and welcome the focus on what more can be done to improve the way such crimes are prosecuted and how the survivors of these crimes and their families can be better supported at all stages of the criminal justice system.
I am aware that in this new parliamentary session, members of the Committee have been looking at efforts to tackle violence against women and girls, measures that have been proposed to improve how these crimes are prosecuted and how the criminal justice system supports survivors of these crimes.
The purpose of the session with Detective Chief Superintendent Faulds and I was, as I understand it, for us to comment on the evidence heard so far and for the Committee to seek our views on what more can be done to improve the way such crimes are prosecuted and how the survivors of these crimes and their families can be better supported by the different bodies within the criminal justice system.
In your letter you provided general comments on views of the Committee that the evidence heard did not sit with the views you had recently heard from victims of serious sexual assaults and domestic abuse. You also stated that you did not doubt Police Scotland’s commitment, albeit ‘real improvement is not possible without first accepting there is an issue’.
I would re-iterate the emphasis I repeated several times during the session; that Police Scotland values and is further developing our means of listening and acting upon feedback of experiences particularly in this area, and recognises there are further improvements to make, within policing, the justice system and of course the society in which such crimes occur.
As you are aware, the Scottish Police Authority has statutory duties under the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, including to maintain policing, to hold the Chief Constable to account, and to promote and support continuous improvement in the policing of Scotland.
Tackling violence against women and girls has been the subject of significant informal discussions with the Scottish Police Authority and public scrutiny at recent Scottish Police Authority meetings.
This includes most recently at a meeting of the Policing Performance Committee on 9 December 2021 and the full Scottish Police Authority Board meeting on 19 January 2022. During this the Chief Constable repeated his absolute commitment to tackling violence against women and girls.
To help inform this response, I [have provided] a copy of the report on violence against women and girls that was published in advance and discussed in detail during the public meeting. This was ‘livestreamed’ publicly, and the broadcast is still available to access. I will not repeat detailed points made in the report, but trust it assists in addressing some of the broader assertions in your letter.
In terms of the focus of the Committee Evidence Sessions, I trust you will also agree that in this report, Police Scotland recognises the importance and need to listen to, and act upon, survivor feedback and over recent years has made significant efforts to ensure appropriate engagement with survivor groups across the violence against women and girls network.
It further outlines the relationships that have been developed with advocacy groups including Rape Crisis Scotland and the governance process adopted in terms of reviewing survivor feedback, particularly where negative, in order to identify specific learning opportunities or particular trends, to ensure an improved quality of service.
You will note that in the main the feedback from the substantial number of respondents is positive, however to further enhance and develop this, Police Scotland is leading a multiagency working group.
As a consequence of this scrutiny session and discussion a number of actions were agreed, including the Scottish Police Authority convening a seminar to consider the Police Scotland draft violence against women and girls strategy, in consultation with broader stakeholder groups.
You also outlined a number of further questions relating to a variety of matters relating to violence against women and girls. For ease of reference, I have provided a detailed response to each of these attached at ‘Appendix ’.
I trust the information provided offers reassurance and demonstrates the tangible progress made in tackling violence against women and girls, in all its forms. I fully recognise the need to continually improve our response, in collaboration with others, and am committed to building on existing public trust and confidence, through delivery of systemic and sustainable change across the organisation. The translation of strategic ambition, plans and policies into improved quality of service at the frontline of policing is key to successfully achieving such change.
If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.
Deputy Chief Constable
Crime and Operational Support
Visual Recording of Interviews
1) When will evaluation of the VRI test of change be available?
The Scottish Government are responsible for the evaluation of the Visually Recorded Interview (VRI) test of change process and therefore would be best placed to provide further information in relation to this.
2) Timeframe for providing VRI for all victims of rape and serious sexual crime?
There are interdependencies for the implementation of VRI, which involve agencies
beyond Police Scotland and the evaluation of VRI has not yet been completed. If approved following evaluation, a procurement process will be required to identify a provider for the hardware and software required for this purpose. When this has been completed the VRI project will require to progress through various governance boards to ensure due diligence is completed in terms of introducing VRI nationally. This is in keeping with the roll out of other similar national projects. Therefore an exact timescale for this cannot be provided at this stage.
3) Will VRI be offered to victims of domestic abuse?
If VRI is rolled out nationally, it will be available for Senior Investigating Officers within Police Scotland to consider for victims of all crimes on a case by case basis, including domestic abuse, where it is assessed that the use of VRI would be of particular benefit in the circumstances presented.
4) What are estimated costs of providing VRI?
Referring back to the information provided in questions 1, 2 and 3 above, any associated costs cannot be established at this stage.
5) Confirm whether provision of VRI is one of PS ICT priorities?
Evaluation is not yet complete but if approved, it is likely that VRI would become a priority and progressed through the appropriate governance/procurement process.
Support under Victims &Witnesses (Scotland) Act.
6) Confirm process to ensure PS complies with statutory obligation under V&W(S) Act to provide appropriate support to victims and witnesses.
Police Scotland’s approach to the statutory obligation as detailed above is defined within the Victim Witness and Care National Guidance Document. The purpose of this guidance document is to ensure that victims and witnesses receive a high standard of care during their contact with police and takes cognisance of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, Victims’ Rights (Scotland) Regulations 2015 and the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019.
- In operational terms victims of crime are offered a Victim Care Card (VCC) which details;
- The name of the investigating officer,
- That the victim can request to have a person of their choice or a legal rep with them while they give a statement,Where Police Scotland’s Standards of Service can be accessed,
- Where the Victims’ Code for Scotland can be obtained,
- Information on referral to Victim Support Services.
Victims are also offered the opportunity (with consent) to be referred to support services during the initial engagement with Police. The VCC also makes it clear that a victim may request a referral to Victim Support Services at any stage in their journey through the criminal justice system from Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Parole Board for Scotland (PBS) and Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS).
7) How is it possible for examples of poor practice still to exist seven years after legislation?
As outlined in the violence against women and girls report provided, in terms of survivor feedback, Police Scotland is committed to improving the response to victims and survivors.
I would like to repeat my gratitude for victims sharing their views and experiences, but as Police Scotland was not part of these sessions and is not in receipt of specific details and context provided, I am unable to provide a more informed response to the points raised.
Where any failing on the part of Police Scotland can be established appropriate action will always be taken.
In the year 2020/21, 2176 rapes were recorded by Police Scotland. As I believe the Committee has heard the experiences of a very small number of victims over an extended time period, it is possible that the experiences heard are neither representative nor current in terms of Police Scotland’s ever improving practice. That said, any negative experience of policing is important to respond to, and I would repeat the value of being able to listen to such accounts.
In terms of addressing any poor practice in relation to rape and sexual crime, Police Scotland has a dedicated National Rape Review Team (NRRT) who provide governance at a national level around rape investigations, reviews, and direct liaison with the COPFS on any issues identified with reported cases.
Sexual Offences Liaison Officer (SOLO) Training
8) Who is evaluating SOLO Training and when will evaluation conclude?
In terms of upskilling the existing 730 Sexual Offences Liaison Officers (SOLOs) trained in VRI, a short life working group has been established to identify new course content and national delivery. When this has been agreed a training strategy will be put in place to deliver this to existing SOLOs. Student evaluation will be completed at the end of the course and training staff will carry out a further work place evaluation with students 6 months after the course is completed to fully assess the training provided. This evaluation process will provide initial feedback at the conclusion of the course and practical feedback at an operational level which in turn helps to identify any learning to change and improve SOLO training.
9) Is Trauma informed training provided to all officers and staff who deal with vulnerable people and who delivers that training (is it in conjunction with other agencies)?
Police Scotland is committed to being Trauma Informed and the executive lead is ACC Gary Ritchie. In the period to date a significant focus has been placed on supporting
officers and staff to deliver a trauma informed service to victims of crimes regularly associated with having substantial adverse impact e.g. domestic abuse, sexual offences and child exploitation. This has been achieved in close consultation with NHS Education for Scotland (NES) staff who have supported delivery to detective training division.
A specific programme has also been developed and is delivered to all probationary officers. This has been delivered at the Scottish Police College since October 2019, by trained Partnership, Preventions & Community Wellbeing Division officers. The input evaluates positively.
In addition, Partnership, Preventions & Community Wellbeing have supported other national divisions to test the adoption of trauma informed training. For instance Custody Division have delivered a programme of training for staff in Greater Glasgow. This is in the process of being formally evaluated.
Partnership, Preventions & Community Wellbeing are leading on developing a plan to extend the coverage to include all Police Scotland personnel. This will support the work of the Victims Task Force and will be in close consultation with our key stakeholders in Justice, as well as NHS Education for Scotland. A significant focus will be on supporting local policing divisions to deliver trauma informed awareness raising in conjunction with local partners. A series of workshops are arranged for the first six months of 2022 and will include a strategic oversight group.
10) Timescale for providing a SOLO for every complaint of sexual assault?
In general terms, the criteria for the deployment of a SOLO to a victim is when the victim is subjected to a penetrative offence by the perpetrator, e.g. rape or digital penetration. In addition, a Senior Investigating Officer can assess circumstances out with this criteria and deploy a SOLO should they believe it to be appropriate. As it stands, Police Scotland are not in a position to provide a SOLO for every complaint of sexual assault.
11) Is guidance re not taking statements from very traumatised people part of a SOP? Police Scotland has recently introduced an updated Initial Briefing Report (IBR) document for officers who respond to initial reports of rape and serious sexual crime.
This document has been tailored to provide specific guidance for officers to engage with victims in a professional and empathetic manner, whilst following processes and procedures that we are required to adopt at the early stages of such reports. The IBR is very clear that a brief initial account of the circumstances are noted by the first responder and that a statement is not noted at that time. A statement is noted at a later time agreed with the victim when a SOLO is deployed.
The use of the IBR by first responders is clearly documented in the Sexual Crime Investigation Standard Operating Procedure. Furthermore following consultation with a clinical psychologist from NHS Education for Scotland, in terms of the benefits of adopting a trauma informed approach, our Sexual Crime Investigation Standard Operating Procedure is being updated, highlighting the importance of a trauma informed, victim centred approach which promotes and engenders trust with victims at a critical time in a victim’s life. This approach has also been highlighted to the Senior Investigating Officer and SOLO cadre throughout the organisation.
It is also worth emphasising that many people whom the police support and need to gather evidence from, for crimes against women and girls will be very traumatised for extensive periods of time. This is recognised in terms of the way in which victims are supported as much as is possible, but a degree of distress in reporting such matters is unfortunately likely to be present due to the very nature of the crimes in question.
12) How is compliance with guidance monitored?
The IBR when completed by the initial attending officers, is subject to quality assurance checks and signed off by line managers. This process ensures compliance with this established process which includes clear instruction that a statement should not be noted by first responders.
13) Detail of work undertaken by PS to address misogyny since Dame Elish report (including work to improve responses to complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination, and whether there is a confidential system in place for whistle-blowers)?
14) Provide update on work of IRG and timescale for completion of this work?
In March 2021, to embed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) across the organisation and to provide a refreshed, enhanced and robust governance structure, Police Scotland established the Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights Strategic Oversight Board (EDI & HR SOB), chaired by DCC Fiona Taylor. The Board meets quarterly and draws together EDI activity across the force.
This includes overseeing the recommendations within the Dame Elish Angiolini review of Police Scotland Complaints Handling, Investigations and Misconduct Issues, as well as progress towards the Joint Equality Outcomes for Policing and recommendations within relevant HMIC Inspection Reports.
The creation of a Police Scotland EDI Strategy is also in its early stages of development with internal and external engagement, consultation, and benchmark taking place. The views and experiences of Police Scotland officers and staff have also been carefully considered, with the findings of various surveys reviewed and analysed to gauge a range of experiences and voices.
The Strategy development will take cognisance of the Your Voice Matters Survey results and Implementation Plan which focuses of 5 key themes, one of which is behaviours. A key aim of this theme is to create a culture of zero tolerance to incivility, misogyny, sexism and discrimination of any kind. Reinforcing positive behaviours that challenge any discriminatory or misogynistic mind-sets.
An Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights Independent Review Group (IRG) has also been established to complement and accelerate Police Scotland’s activity in
mainstreaming Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and in eliminating discrimination. The Group has an independent chair and two vice chairs and a total of 11 members with a wealth of experiences and expertise in equality matters and in representing diverse communities.
The IRG has now developed a bespoke set of outcomes which align with Police Scotland EDI ambitions. The outcomes focus on three areas; cultural change, strategic direction and training and development. The group provide critical, oversight, scrutiny and feedback to Police Scotland’s Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights Strategic Oversight Board and work stream leads.
Members of the IRG are invited to and attend the Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights Strategic Oversight Board and have the autonomy to request additional information and ‘deep dive’ meetings with EDI related work stream leads across the organisation, as required.
The IRG reported to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Board in September 2021, outlining the Groups intentions and it is anticipated it will report publically via the Board in September 2022.
It is expected that the IRG will be in place for 12 – 18 months however this period may be extended if necessary. The establishment of the IRG is in line with recommendation 18 of the Dame Elish Angiolini review to commission a broader independent review of equality matters.
The Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights Strategic Oversight Board has also recently endorsed proposals for next steps in providing sex equality and tackling misogyny within Police Scotland.
I will lead on this work as the executive sponsor and have created a small strategic working group of senior leaders alongside key involvement of relevant staff associations, to co-ordinate activity and develop an associated action plan. The first meeting of the group took place on Monday 17 January 2022.
The ambition is to create a workplace that is respectful and inclusive of both sexes (and by extension all protected groups) recognising that service delivery to the public is enhanced by a diverse and representative workforce supporting our communities.
The Service will seek to tackle barriers that have a foundation in sex that result in a disproportionate negative impact, particularly on women. We also seek to ensure that our workforce is accountable for its attitudes and behaviours, rooted in our values of fairness, integrity, and respect which will ensure an inclusive culture and enhance our interactions with the public.
Police Scotland also seeks to provide an environment where individuals feel confident to raise concerns when they reasonably believe that wrongdoing is being or has been done.
Whistleblowing has many potential benefits for the organisation and is viewed as an important source of information that may highlight serious risks to the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation, with individuals often being best placed to identify deficiencies and problems at the earliest opportunity.
In 2019, we implemented ‘Integrity Matters’ – providing police officers and members of police staff with a confidential and anonymous online mechanism to report criminal,
conduct or integrity concerns which they may have.
Our Whistleblowing Policy and Whistleblowing Guidance in place for officers and staff, has recently been reviewed in response to the Dame Elish recommendations.
Stalking, Harassment and Domestic Abuse
15) What training is in place to ensure appropriate policing response provided to women who are in danger?
Police Scotland continues to engage with partners in Scotland and wider across the UK in respect of Stalking and Harassment, and works closely with the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Action Against Stalking and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Bespoke training is delivered across Police Scotland to civilian members of staff, C3, and to all operational police officers and supervisors. The Standard Operating Procedure and guidance toolkits are also reviewed annually. Organisation Learning is shared through a number of internal governance processes to ensure that we provide a high quality and consistent service to the public.
16) What is the basis of Police Scotland’s decision to record gender based on self presentation?
In 2019, to prepare for the Gender Recognition Act reform which was taking place at the time, Safer Communities E&D team considered a draft Police Scotland policy on Gender Identification and assessed that a Police Scotland position statement was required.
A position statement (below) was developed by Police Scotland. This was approved by the Senior Leadership Board in November 2019 for use in response to enquiries while Police Scotland awaited direction and guidance from Scottish Government on the identification and recording of sex and/or gender, which would emerge from a review by the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician.
Gender self-declaration position statement:
“The sex/gender identification of individuals who come into contact with the police will be based on how they present or how they self-declare, which is consistent with the values of the organisation.
Police Scotland requires no evidence or certification as proof of biological sex or gender identity other than a person's self-declaration, unless it is pertinent to any investigation with which they are linked as a victim, witness or accused and it is evidentially critical that we legally require this proof, or there is reason for further enquiry based on risk. We would look for the most sensitive way to acquire this information.”
17) What guidance is waited on from SG?
The Scottish Government published their Data Collection and Publication Guidance: Sex, Gender, and Trans Status on 22 September 2021. While this considered many factors in how such information should be gathered in a consistent and respectful manner, it does not provide answers to a number of challenges in how organisations should record to meet recording standards.
Further direction and guidance from Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician is awaited, due to Scottish Government’s decision to postpone its proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004, pending further consultation.
Lady Dorrian Review
18) Does PS agree with recommendation for a single trauma informed point of contact for victims of sexual assault?
The concept of a single trauma informed point of contact detailed in Recommendation 3b (i & ii) appears to suggest a newly identified role independent of Police, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Scottish Prison Service. As it stands the appointed Sexual Offences Liaison Officer (SOLO) is the single point of contact for a victim initially through the criminal justice process, until the matter is formally reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution. When proceedings become live, a Victim Information & Advice (VIA) officer is appointed by the COPFS to support the victim through the pending court proceedings or otherwise. Even when the matter is reported to the COPFS, a SOLO will likely still support victims as and when required.
Further discussion with all relevant partner agencies and Scottish Government is required to progress this recommendation and its potential adoption. In principle, the rationale laid out in the report for the creation of such a role is supported. It may be that a new independent role will require to be developed to fulfil this recommendation and details of the exact role, funding and ownership would need to be agreed.
19) If so, action taken to implement recommendation?
As discussed above there are various interdependencies around the formation of this role if the recommendation is adopted and it is likely Police Scotland will from part of a working group with other agencies to develop this.
20) Is this a service offered to victims of domestic abuse?
Not at this time.
21) Details of PS procedures for the use of NDA’s for police officers, staff, and members of the public?
22) Confirmation of whether PS has used NDAs for complaints of sexual discrimination, victimisation, or harassment?
23) What are the oversight and authority arrangements for the use of NDAs?
Police Scotland does not routinely enter into Non-disclosure Agreements and has never entered into any Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for the purposes of preventing whistleblowing relative to sexual discrimination, victimisation or harassment.
Indeed Police Scotland specifically excludes whistleblowing from being enshrined in any NDA it is party to. Police Scotland will only ever enter into a NDA where parties agree to do so and the agreement accords fully with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guidance.
The ACAS guidance provides that Non-disclosure Agreements should not be used:
- before seeing if another solution can be used instead,
- when they are not needed,
- to stop someone reporting discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment,
- to cover up inappropriate behaviour or misconduct, particularly not if there’s a risk of it happening again,
- to avoid addressing disputes or problems in the workplace,
- to mislead someone.
Police Scotland seeks advice on the appropriateness of any NDA from its Solicitors and the decision to enter into any such agreement is always made by a senior officer following such legal advice. In the previous three financial years Police Scotland has entered into a NDA in 1.7% of the cases it has settled.
Police Scotland has sought a NDA in 1.2% of the cases it has settled and these have almost exclusively been for commercial sensitivity reasons. The other NDAs have been sought by the other party to the Agreement or been recommended by ACAS. They have never been used to prevent whistleblowing.
As part of the governance and scrutiny process that Police Scotland is subject to, the question of NDAs has been raised at the Scottish Police Authority's Legal Committees of December 2021 and January 2022. Police Scotland has made representations on the use of NDAs and provided confirmation that they are always used in accordance with ACAS guidance. I can advise that no recommendations or actions from the SPA followed upon those representations provided by Police Scotland.
Police Scotland recognises that the use of NDAs by a public body can, despite being a perfectly legitimate tool in many cases, attract negative comment. It is for that reason that they are used extremely sparingly and always subject to legal advice.
Violence Against Women and Girls
Letter from Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 14 January 2022
Court Backlogs, Victim Support, Discontinuations and Evidence by Commission
Letter from the Lord Advocate to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 20 January 2022
Criminal Justice Committee Evidence Session, 8 December 2021, Further Evidence
Letter from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 24 December 2021
Letter from the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee to Police Scotland, 17 February 2022