More police watchdog staff to be recruited in face of ‘acute’ demand
Kate Frame told MSPs a shortage of resources had ‘undoubtedly’ impacted on the speed of investigations.
A police watchdog is to recruit more staff after its resources were “stretched to the limit” last year.
Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) Kate Frame said she welcomed an increase in her budget in recognition of the acute demands facing staff.
The body currently has about 30 full-time equivalent investigators working on 31 live investigations, some of which have required more than 100 witness statements to be taken.
In a letter to Margaret Mitchell, convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, Ms Frame said recruitment would be under way shortly, with additional staff to be in position by April 2018.
She said the growth in investigations referred to Pirc in 2016/17 and 2017/18 “has made it particularly difficult to deliver our investigation reports as quickly as I would have liked”.
Ms Frame said: “Throughout 2017, I continued to witness an increase in the scale and complexity of investigations referred to me and a considerable rise in the number of senior officer (ie above the rank of Assistant Chief Constable) misconduct referrals to me by the Scottish Police Authority.
“Being aware that our resources were already stretched to the limit and as I was extremely concerned about the unsustainability of the situation, I raised this issue on several occasions with our sponsor team at the Scottish Government.”
Ms Frame welcomed extra funds including a budget increase of £1,068,000 which she said “meets the current business demands of the Pirc”.
She added: “Whilst it is always almost impossible to predict with any degree of certainty how long it will take to complete any investigation, the shortage of resources throughout 2017 has undoubtedly impacted on the speed at which the investigation team has been able to complete its work.
The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has informed the Justice Committee the organisation's resources were "stretched to the limit".@Liam4Orkney said "SNP ministers must take responsibility for the delay to these cases."https://t.co/mKMwUCsZDc pic.twitter.com/VcMxgPdSyg— Scottish Lib Dems (@scotlibdems) February 5, 2018
“I trust that this letter gives you some indication of the acute pressure that staff here have been working under, in order to meet the ever-increasing demand placed on this organisation and provide you with some reassurance that these demands have now been recognised by the latest funding allocation.”
The Pirc said it was hoped that the additional staff would “allow us to progress investigations more timeously” but the situation would be monitored.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “While the Scottish Government has now given it a fresh financial package, it is clear that Pirc could have done with this much earlier.
“Pirc does critical work and SNP ministers must take responsibility for the delay to these cases.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As Cabinet Secretary made clear to parliament last week, we received a business plan from PIRC in late 2017 on the increasing demand that it is facing and the resources needed.
“We considered that and with the support of Parliament, we intend, if the budget is agreed, to increase the PIRC’s budget by more than £1 million in the forthcoming financial year.
“That would increase its budget by almost 30 per cent, in order to allow it to increase the range of staff that it has to deal with the investigations and demands that it is experiencing at present.”