Report of a Complaint Handling Review in relation to Police Scotland

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1 Report of a Complaint Handling Review in relation to Police Scotland independent and effective investigations and reviews independent and effective investigations and reviews

2 Index 1. Role of the PIRC 2. Key findings 3. Background 4. The Review 5. Conclusions Page 1

3 1. Role of the PIRC Sections 34 and 35 of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 ( the Act ) provide that the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner ( the PIRC ) may examine the manner in which particular kinds of complaints are dealt with by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. Through agreements with UK police bodies operating in Scotland, the PIRC may also examine the manner in which these bodies deal with complaints. The PIRC cannot review complaints of criminal behaviour against police officers or police staff, or complaints made by persons serving, or who have served with the police, about the terms and conditions of their service. In performing this review function, the PIRC obtains information from the police body which dealt with the complaint. This information is considered together with information provided by the person who made the complaint ( the applicant ). An assessment is then made as to whether in all the circumstances the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard. Among the factors taken into account when making this assessment are the following: whether sufficient enquiries into the complaint have been carried out by the policing body; whether the policing body s response to the complaint is supported by all material information available; whether in dealing with the complaint the policing body has adhered to all relevant policies, procedures and legal provisions; whether the policing body s response to the complaint is adequately reasoned; and where the complaint has resulted in the policing body identifying measures necessary to improve its service, whether these measures are adequate and have been implemented. Page 2

4 2. Key findings The complaints in this case arose from Police Scotland s response to an ongoing neighbour dispute. Nine complaints were reviewed, namely: 1) that a named sergeant did not meet with the applicant; 2) that the Area Commander wrongly stated in a letter dated 4 November 2015 that the situation was being monitored; 3) that between December 2015 and March 2016, no charges were brought against the applicant s neighbours. 4) that the applicant was unhappy with the response given by police officers on 9 May 2016 when she asked about the delay in charging her in relation to an incident on 6 April 2016; 5) that following the incident of 6 April 2016, the applicant was referred to Victim Support; 6) that the applicant was informed by the Area Commander that her letter of 15 April 2016 had been passed to two officers, however she was not contacted prior to being charged on 9 May 2016; 7) that the applicant was not permitted to make a complaint about a neighbour who had made a false allegation against her; 8) that officers failed to view CCTV footage from an incident on 14 August 2016, where a male neighbour displayed threatening and abusive behaviour; and 9) that the applicant did not receive a response to a complaint sent to a named sergeant on 17 August The review found that five of the complaints were handled to a reasonable standard and four were not. Four recommendations have been made. Page 3

5 3. Background The applicant was in contact with Police Scotland from August 2015 onwards during which time she reported incidents of anti-social behaviour involving several of her neighbours. In October/November 2015, the applicant installed CCTV at her home with a view of the front of her property. She subsequently wrote to Police Scotland on several occasions about incidents around her property, and provided CCTV footage which she considered to show a campaign of harassment against her between December 2015 and March On 6 April 2016, the applicant confiscated a child s football after he kicked it into her front garden. The child s grandmother then attended at the applicant s address. The applicant did not open her door and an argument ensued. Both parties contacted the police and the attending officers viewed the applicant s CCTV footage of the incident. The child s grandmother was charged under Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 due to her behaviour towards the applicant. However, on 9 May 2016, following further enquiries, the applicant was also charged in connection with the same incident. A further incident occurred on 5 May 2016, whereby a neighbour reported to Police Scotland that the applicant had been verbally abusive towards her in the street. Officers attended later that day. They spoke with both parties and established that no crime had occurred. The applicant s neighbour informed them that she had over-reacted by contacting the police. However, it was the applicant s position that her neighbour deliberately made a false allegation. No charges were brought against either party on that occasion. Police were again called to the applicant s address on 14 August The applicant reported that a neighbour had been abusive towards her when she gestured at him to move his car from across her driveway. The attending officers spoke with both parties and again, on this occasion, no charges were brought. The applicant submitted letters of complaint in September and October Inspector A was appointed to investigate the applicant s concerns. He met with her on 18 December 2016, during which time a statement of complaint was obtained and the Police Scotland Heads of Complaint form was completed. Chief Inspector B responded to the applicant s complaints by letter dated 6 May Page 4

6 4. The Review Complaint 1: Sergeant C did not meet with the applicant According to the applicant, after she sought the involvement of her MSP, Sergeant C was tasked to assist in dealing with her concerns about her neighbours. She spoke with Sergeant C by telephone. However, she complained that she did not meet him, further suggesting that he had failed to attend two pre-arranged meetings. Within her statement of complaint, she recorded Sergeant [C] never met me in person however I spoke with him on the phone to arrange another appointment. On doing so he never turned up for that meeting either. Police Handling of Complaint 1 The applicant s complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: You state following a discussion with your [MSP], the then Area Commander, Chief Inspector [D] had received correspondence relating to your on-going issues and tasked Sergeant [C] to assist... After attending your address on several occasions with no reply, Sergeant [C] left a Police Scotland calling card asking you to contact him which you duly did and explained to him the problems caused by several young children running across your house boundary, onto your front garden area and causing general annoyance. Sergeant [C] offered to visit you at home however you declined so he then suggested you attend an appointment at [the local police office] to discuss the complaint with an officer of the Community Policing Team, believing such a meeting would be beneficial to addressing your concerns. Having agreed to this, on your arrival at [the police office] Sergeant [C] states he met and introduced you to a constable from the Community Policing Team who thereafter listened to your complaint. Several days later Sergeant [C] states he again spoke with yourself by telephone and you explained issues with the children were continuing. A colleague, Sergeant [E] overheard the conversation and on finishing the phone call commented to Sergeant [C] that he was already progressing actions in relation to the complaint plus informed Sergeant [C] that he was happy to take ownership of the complaint as he had established a good working relationship with yourself. From the information I have, it would appear Sergeant [C] did actually meet you in person however I accept this may not have been in the context, format or manner you expected. Page 5

7 Consideration of Complaint 1 The applicant explained in her correspondence to the PIRC that she was dissatisfied with Police Scotland s response to her complaint as she did not meet Sergeant C, even briefly, when she attended the meeting at the police office on 14 October The applicant explained that she arrived at the police office at 18.20, at which time it was closed. She called 101 and the operator contacted the police office on her behalf. According to the applicant, two officers then met her outside and escorted her into the police office to conduct the meeting. Sergeant C had provided them with her MSP s correspondence, but did not attend the meeting as he was required elsewhere. The applicant did not explain her concerns in such detail within her letters of complaint to Police Scotland or her statement. Accordingly, we would not have expected the complaint investigation to ascertain whether or not she had to telephone 101 for admittance to the police office, or to establish which officers escorted her inside. However, as Sergeant C stated that he introduced the applicant to another officer upon her arrival at the police office, who thereafter attended the meeting with her, we would have expected an account to be taken from that officer to support Sergeant C s recollection of events. The applicant also informed the PIRC that, approximately two weeks after the meeting, she spoke with Sergeant C on the phone. According to the applicant, Sergeant C arranged to attend at her home to discuss the operation of her recently installed CCTV system. She stated that he did not attend this meeting. The complaint response did not directly address this point. Although Sergeant C confirmed that he spoke with the applicant by phone after her attendance at the police office, he did not mention making another appointment. During the complaint enquiry, Sergeant E was not asked to confirm whether he overheard the applicant s conversation with Sergeant C. Accordingly, the complaint investigation did not explore whether the applicant was given any expectation that Sergeant C would attend at her home at a later date. However, Sergeant C recorded that he had no further contact with the applicant after their telephone conversation as Sergeant E continued with the enquiries thereafter. Section of the Police Scotland Complaints about the Police Standard Operating Procedure ( the Complaints SOP ) states that the decision whether to uphold a complaint must be taken based on the balance of probabilities, that is, the enquiry officer must use their own professional judgement to decide, based on all available evidence, whether one account is more credible than the other. In summary, no accounts were taken from the officer(s) who met with the applicant on 14 October 2015 to establish whether Sergeant C was present at any point. Furthermore, the complaint investigation did not assess whether the applicant was given an expectation that Sergeant C would meet with her personally at a later date. We therefore consider that insufficient enquiry was carried out into this complaint to assess on balance which version of events Police Scotland considered to be more credible. Accordingly we conclude that the complaint was not handled to a reasonable standard. Notwithstanding the above, although Police Scotland did not fully establish the nature of the applicant s contact with Sergeant C, it is evident that he ensured the meeting of 14 October 2015 was attended by colleagues. Indeed the applicant acknowledged that she had a useful meeting with the two officers who attended. Furthermore, Sergeant C s position that enquiries were thereafter undertaken by Page 6

8 Sergeant E is supported by information contained within both the Police Scotland casefile and the applicant s correspondence to the PIRC. This shows that she was in regular contact with Sergeant E from August 2015 onwards. Within an to her MSP dated 17 October 2015, the applicant explained that she had met with Sergeant E on the previous day and that he had put an action plan in place. We therefore consider that there would be little additional value in asking Police Scotland to carry out further enquiry into whether or not the applicant met with Sergeant C personally. Accordingly, no recommendations have been made in this connection. Complaint 2: Content of letter from Area Commander The applicant stated that Chief Inspector D informed her MSP in a letter dated 4 November 2015 that the situation involving the applicant and her neighbours was being monitored. She recorded in her statement of complaint that this was clearly not the case as no-one ever visited me. Police Handling of Complaint 2 The complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: In terms of [your point] whereby in his letter, the Area Commander stated the situation was being monitored.. I cannot prove or disprove this was the case. I understand officers patrolling the local area were aware of on-going issues for [your street] and when incidents permit, would have routinely driven, cycled or walked in your area as part of their general patrol. Unless there was a specific reason, for example you requesting police attend your home address, officers would not routinely visit you at home plus officers would have been made aware not to attend your home address unless so specifically required as this was something you had previously communicated to Sergeant [E] when you did not wish any neighbours spoken to as it would reveal you as the reporter. Consideration of Complaint 2 Section of the Complaints SOP provides that the enquiry officer must not base their conclusion on assumption. Instead, the decision whether or not to uphold a complaint must be evidence based. In respect of the response to complaint 2, Chief Inspector B stated that he could not prove or disprove whether the situation involving the applicant and her neighbours was being monitored as highlighted in Chief Inspector D s letter to the applicant s MSP. However, the statement provided by Sergeant E during the complaint investigation set out the level of contact he had with the applicant over the preceding months. He explained that he had received correspondence and video footage from the applicant s CCTV system; that he had dispatched officers to speak to the children who were causing the applicant distress; that he had met with the applicant on several occasions about her concerns; and, that he had reviewed the handling of incidents notified to him by the applicant. Page 7

9 Furthermore, the applicant wrote to Sergeant E on 16 January 2016 to thank him for his recent update and to inform him about further instances of harassment by her neighbours. The applicant confirmed in s to her solicitor sent between 17 and 31 March 2016 that she had met with Sergeant E on 16 March during which he explained the action taken as a result of her ongoing concerns. She also stated that Sergeant E had been supportive and helpful and kind. Therefore, based on the information available to Chief Inspector B during the complaint investigation, we consider that he would have been justified on balance in not upholding the applicant s complaint. This is because the evidence contained within the complaint casefile, and provided by the applicant during the review, strongly suggests that Sergeant E had an overview of the applicant s concerns and acted on her reports of harassment where appropriate. Accordingly, Police Scotland could reasonably have assessed that the situation was being monitored, as explained to the applicant s MSP in the letter of 4 November As Police Scotland s response was not evidence based, we conclude that the complaint was not handled to a reasonable standard. However, as the information available to Inspector A and Chief Inspector B during the complaint investigation has now been explained in this report, no further action is required in this connection. Complaint 3: No charges brought against neighbours The applicant complained that between December 2015 and March 2016, she was subjected to a campaign of harassment by two of her neighbours. According to the applicant, despite providing CCTV footage of several incidents and a timeline of events to Sergeant E, no action was taken against her neighbours. The applicant stated that she was informed by Sergeant E during a telephone conversation on 16 February 2016 that no charges would be brought against her neighbours in connection with her allegations of harassment. She stated that Sergeant E was hoping to resolve it in another way as the area seemed a nice place to live. Police Handling of Complaint 3 Chief Inspector B provided the following response:..sergeant [E] states as he was aware of on-going issues from your previous meeting and discussion with him involving [your neighbours] during the timeframe specified above, Sergeant [E] confirms he received a USB stick taken from your recently installed CCTV system capturing your front driveway which showed persons talking/raised voices outside your home although Sergeant [E] was unable to make out what was exactly said. He further confirms receiving a letter and timeline outlining circumstances plus met with you again at [the police office] when you agreed police should make contact with the children causing problems around your property. Having been provided names and addresses by yourself, Sergeant [E] allocated two officers to attend and speak with these children to ensure they did not continue to cause yourself any further problems. On this being done, Sergeant [E] immediately updated yourself. Page 8

10 On reviewing all information available to him, had there been sufficient evidence to substantiate a crime or offence against [your neighbours] then the appropriate action and processes would have been taken. Sergeant [E] deemed there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone and this was the sole reason no-one was charged however having taken that decision, Sergeant [E] was conscious tensions still existed between you and your neighbours which he believed could and should be resolved at a local community policing level Consideration of Complaint 3 The applicant s CCTV footage was viewed by the PIRC during the review and we consider that the complaint response provided a fair assessment of its content. We also considered the content of the applicant s timeline of events in conjunction with the footage. We are satisfied with Police Scotland s position that the concerns raised by the applicant about the actions of her neighbours would not constitute an offence. Furthermore, within an to her solicitor dated 17 March 2016, the applicant informed him that she discussed the ongoing harassment allegations with Sergeant E on 16 March She stated he confirmed that he has viewed the CCTV footage I provided. We discussed his reasons for not charging [her neighbours] and I defer to his decision because he is right. It is therefore evident that Sergeant E fully explained to the applicant why he could not charge any party involved in the matter and that the applicant initially accepted his position. It is also evident from the information contained within both the Police Scotland complaint file and documents provided by the applicant that Sergeant E suggested mediation as an option to resolve the situation. However the applicant informed her solicitor on 31 March 2016 that her initial contact with a mediator had not been helpful. Given that Sergeant E explained why no action could be taken against the applicant s neighbours and given that he sought another suitable method to resolve the applicant s concerns, we consider that Police Scotland was warranted in not upholding this complaint. We therefore conclude that the complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. No further action is required is this connection. Complaint 4: Dissatisfaction with response to question On 9 May 2016, the applicant was charged in connection with the incident of 6 April She asked the attending officers, Constables F and G, to explain why there was a delay in charging her. According to the applicant, she was told that the delay was due to shift changes. However, within her statement of complaint, the applicant expressed her belief that the officers had deliberately waited until the child s family had moved away from the street before charging her. She also stated that a social Page 9

11 worker had informed her that her neighbour had made a counter allegation against her in connection with the incident. This led the applicant to believe that the reason for the delay provided to her by the police officers was incorrect. Police Handling of Complaint 4 The applicant s complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: In terms of the delay in being charged, you state that you have since found out that it was not down to shift changes, it was down to the mother of the boy who made a counter charge and you were told this by the Social Worker allocated to you on the 5 th September The incident happened on the 06 th April 2016 and at this time [your neighbour s] house was for sale. You were aware they were moving on 15 th April 2016 and you believe the officers waited until this family had moved from the street before coming back to charge you.. The officers state the period of time between the grandmother being charged then several weeks later yourself was due to you initially being treated as a witness and it was not until the reporting officer viewed and listened to the CCTV in more depth covering the whole incident that it came to light you had sworn at the young boy. Any passage of time was then compounded due to the officer s shift pattern, rostered days off then appreciating you were working during office hours, ensuring they could speak with you at a suitable time within your home address. The officers totally refute your point that they had deliberately waited until [your neighbours] had moved out. In addition, the decision to charge yourself with the offence was made solely by the police officers when reviewing the CCTV footage. This was based on the evidence you had acted aggressively and sworn at a young boy who had, by what was in the opinion of the officers clear from watching the CCTV footage, accidentally kicked the football towards your home address. Given the circumstances and age of the young boy involved, the situation did not allow officers to use discretion. Consideration of Complaint 4 Constables F and G recorded in their statements that the child s mother wanted to submit a counterallegation of assault against the applicant on the date the incident occurred. However the allegation was not investigated further as both officers had already viewed the CCTV footage which confirmed that the applicant did not assault the child. Therefore, although the applicant is correct that the other party initially wanted her to be charged in connection with the incident, only the child s grandmother was charged at that point. Of note is that the Standard Prosecution Report (SPR) submitted by Police Scotland to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) contains no reference to the child s mother making an allegation against the applicant. The CCTV footage of the incident was available to the PIRC during the review. We consider that the actions of the child s grandmother towards the applicant, that formed the basis of the criminal charge, were immediately obvious. In contrast, the manner of the applicant towards the child - in particular the Page 10

12 language used - was more difficult to ascertain. We are therefore satisfied with Police Scotland s explanation as to why an offence by the applicant was only identified when the CCTV footage was viewed for a second time. In that respect, the footage was viewed by Constable F on 18 April 2016, by which time the applicant s neighbours had moved. However, there is nothing in the available information to suggest that review of the CCTV footage was deliberately delayed. Constable F explained in her statement that she had to view the footage during daytime hours within the police office. Due to her shift pattern and days off, this took some time to arrange. Once she had viewed the footage again, she identified that the applicant had sworn at the child during the incident. Constable F stated that she then had to attend the applicant s address in the evening as she knew the applicant worked during the day. These factors impacted upon her ability to progress the enquiry more quickly, contributing to the delay in charging the applicant. Accordingly, we consider that the complaint response is supported by the material information available and that the decision not to uphold the applicant s complaint is adequately reasoned. We therefore conclude that the complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. No further action is required in this connection. Complaint 5: Referred to Victim Support The applicant complained that, following the incident of 6 April 2016, she was so upset by the actions of the child s grandmother that Police Scotland referred her to Victim Support. Police Handling of Complaint 5 The complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: As a victim of a crime, the officers would as part of their role offer and refer you to Victim Support. Consideration of Complaint 5 From the applicant s statement, it is not clear why she was unhappy about the referral to Victim Support. Furthermore, previous correspondence to Police Scotland from the applicant did not highlight any concern about the referral. For example, summaries of the incident of 6 April 2016 compiled by the applicant are contained within Police Scotland s complaint file. In one of the summaries, she mentioned Constable F referring her to Victim Support, and her subsequent conversation with a Victim Support representative which she described as very helpful. In a summary dated 12 May 2016, the applicant stated not a complaint but an observation now that I am a victim and have been referred to Victim Support who have been in contact with me. The applicant therefore appears to have considered the referral as evidence to support her position that she was the victim of harassment by her neighbours. Page 11

13 In view of the information available to Police Scotland during the complaint enquiry as highlighted above, we consider the explanation provided in the complaint response to be adequate and that the complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. However, within her PIRC correspondence, the applicant stated that the referral was made without her consent. On the issue of consent, Police Scotland s Victim Support Standard Operating Procedure ( the Victim Support SOP ) provides that it is best practice to offer Victim Support services to persons who have been affected by a crime, unless the person chooses to opt out. It further states that consent is necessary on each occasion. As the applicant has now clarified the nature of her complaint, we recommend that Police Scotland record and respond to her concern that a referral was made to Victim Support without her consent. In addressing the complaint, Police Scotland should obtain a further account from Constable F to establish whether she made the referral to Victim Support and if the applicant s consent was sought. The content of any documentation relating to the referral should also be considered. A further response should then be issued to the applicant that explains any conclusion reached. Complaint 6: Not contacted about letter of 15 April 2016 The applicant wrote to Chief Inspector D following the incident of 6 April On 3 May 2016, Chief Inspector D left a telephone message to inform the applicant that a new Area Commander (Chief Inspector H) was due to take over. Her correspondence was forwarded to Chief Inspector H and Inspector J for their attention. The applicant complained that Chief Inspector H did not contact her until 16 November Police Handling of Complaint 6 The applicant s complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: I am of the belief having written a letter then subsequently been contacted by the then Area Commander, you were of the perception that perhaps the new Area Commander or Inspector [J] would personally contact you. If that is the case then I apologise no such communication was made however [the division] have a system in place whereby such matters are allocated to the Community Policing Sergeants. As Inspector [J] identified that a rapport had already been established between Sergeant [E] and yourself, he was of the opinion Sergeant [E] was best placed to continue acting as a single point of contact for you. Page 12

14 Consideration of Complaint 6 Section of the Complaints SOP states that A complaint should be upheld where the evidence based findings show the service provided by or through the conduct of those serving with the police did not reach the standard a reasonable person could expect. Chief Inspector B acknowledged in his response that the applicant may have been given the expectation that another senior officer would contact her about her correspondence. As she was not contacted by Chief Inspector H until 16 November 2016, we consider that Police Scotland should have upheld the applicant s complaint. As the complaint was not upheld in accordance with Police Scotland s complaints procedures, we consider it was not handled to a reasonable standard. We recommend that Police Scotland now record the complaint as upheld. However, as the complaint response has explained the reason for the lack of contact, and given that an apology was provided to the applicant, there is no requirement for Police Scotland to issue a further response. Complaint 7: Not permitted to make complaint about neighbour On 5 May 2016, Constables K and L attended at the applicant s address after a neighbour (Ms M) contacted the police alleging that the applicant had been verbally abusive towards her. According to the applicant, she was able to disprove the allegation by showing Constables K and L her CCTV footage of the incident. She believed that Ms M had made a false allegation against her. However, she was informed by Constables K and L that Ms M had not committed any offence as the allegation had been made based on her recollection of the incident. The applicant then complained that Constables K and L had not permitted her to make a counterallegation against her neighbour. Police Handling of Complaint 7 The applicant s complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: The officers who attended the incident state they were instructed to attend at [Ms M s address] regarding a neighbour dispute and on speaking with [Ms M] they were advised a verbal exchange of words had occurred between the two of you. What was described to them was not criminal in nature, no crime was established and on explaining this to [Ms M] she fully accepted she had over-reacted at the time of calling the police. Officers gave advice, informed [Ms M] they would speak with yourself and at this point she informed officers the incident would be captured on your CCTV. After initially getting no reply, officers re-attended that evening and spoke with you, advising that a complaint had initially been made, offered general advice then viewed your CCTV. The officers state Page 13

15 after speaking with yourself and listening to your points, coupled with that of [Ms M] they took the decision that no further police action was necessary. It was the opinion of the officers, [Ms M] had contacted Police Scotland to seek advice, was not attempting to make a false allegation against you particularly as she was aware the incident would be captured on your CCTV which officers could view. Consideration of Complaint 7 The applicant informed the PIRC that she was unhappy with the response to this complaint as, in her view, Constables K and L were intent on charging [her] in connection with Ms M s allegation. However, that view is not supported by the information documented by Constables K and L. They recorded in their statements that, based on Ms M s account of the incident, the matter as described was not criminal in nature. Entries on the incident log state that Ms M had by her own admission overreacted; no direct threats were made; no crime was established; and, that the applicant would be spoken to in due course. It is therefore clear that the officers had already established that the applicant had not committed an offence prior to visiting her a few hours after their meeting with Ms M. As highlighted on the incident log, their attendance was to discuss the matter rather than charge her with an offence. Although the applicant s CCTV footage was viewed, this only confirmed their earlier assessment that the matter was not criminal in nature and did not influence the decision not to charge her. Although Ms M s original allegation that the applicant was abusive towards her was incorrect, it does not follow that she deliberately attempted to mislead Constables K and L. In that respect, Constable K recorded that Ms M explained there was a long-standing neighbour dispute, and that police had been called on numerous occasions. Ms M requested that the officers speak with the applicant to inform her that she no longer wished to have any contact with her. Constable L formed the opinion that she had contacted police for advice as much as anything else. Both officers explained that Ms M was aware the incident would be captured on the applicant s CCTV system. Therefore, based on their discussions with Ms M, and her knowledge that the incident would be recorded, they formed the opinion that her account was likely to be truthful. This was confirmed when the CCTV was viewed. Accordingly, Constables K and L were satisfied that no further action was necessary and that the matter could be concluded by providing advice to both parties. As the above information has been adequately explained in complaint response, we conclude that the complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. No further action is required in this connection. Complaint 8: Failed to view CCTV footage The applicant complained that, after she reported the incident of 14 August 2016, the attending officers (Constables N and P) did not view her CCTV footage. According to the applicant, this would have Page 14

16 shown her neighbour (Ms M s husband) tell her to fuck off when she indicated to him to move his car away from her house. Police Handling of Complaint 8 The applicant s complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: the officers state on initially speaking to you and explaining the various methods police officers have when dealing with incidents, on having your agreement the officers decided the best method to deal and resolve this particular incident was to speak with your neighbour, making them aware of the complaint. the officers were of the opinion this was a minor incident best dealt with by communication, highlighting the issues and problems with intention of resolving this particular incident in the least intrusive and disruptive manner for both parties. As you agreed to this and content nothing else had occurred other than what had been replayed (sic) by both you and your neighbours, the officers did not view your CCTV. Consideration of Complaint 8 As suggested in the complaint response, the officers were able to establish the nature of the incident by speaking with the applicant. In this case the applicant s neighbour also confirmed that he had shouted. Accordingly, there was no disagreement about what had occurred. The Scottish Crime Recording Standard states that officers can exercise discretion and opt to issue a verbal warning in cases of alleged anti-social behaviour and minor acts of disorder. This is the course of action the officers took in response to the applicant s allegation. Constable N noted in his statement that CCTV was not viewed as the applicant agreed that the officers should try to resolve the issue by speaking with her neighbours. This is broadly consistent with the applicant s position, as she clarified in her statement of complaint that she didn t challenge the officers decision not to charge [her neighbour]. Notwithstanding the above, there are some inconsistencies between the accounts provided by the applicant and the attending officers about their discussion of the CCTV, and whether or not the footage contained an audio recording, which have not been highlighted in the complaint response. However, the applicant informed the PIRC that Inspector A asked her for a copy of the CCTV footage during the complaint enquiry. We consider that this demonstrates good complaint handling practice as the enquiry officer sought to gather additional information about the handling of the incident before reaching his conclusion. The applicant stated that she was unable to provide the footage due to technical difficulties. Accordingly, its content could not be considered during the complaint enquiry or the PIRC review. We therefore consider that the decision not to uphold the applicant s complaint, on the basis of the material information available, is adequately reasoned. Page 15

17 As the complaint response was adequately reasoned, and as sufficient enquiry was carried out, we conclude that the complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. No further action is required in this connection. Complaint 9: No response to complaint The applicant complained that Sergeant E did not respond to a complaint she sent to him on 16 August Police Handling of Complaint 9 The complaint was not upheld. Chief Inspector B provided the following response: You state on Monday 15th August, you updated your solicitor with a report on the incident then on the 16 th August 2016 you reported this to Sergeant [E]. Via . On reviewing this and keen to ensure you used the correct terminology and for the avoidance of doubt on the 17 th August 2016 you resent your report and highlighted it as you were making a formal complaint, an expression of dissatisfaction Sergeant [E] confirms you sent a letter dated 16/8/2016, in which you relayed this incident and asked for his views or comments, which he provided. As articulated as part of the response to your previous point, he reviewed this incident and spoke with the attending officers plus personally attended your neighbours dwelling at [address provided] to speak with the persons involved to confirm one exchange and nothing more than already described had occurred. Sergeant [E] is of the opinion that he would have tried to update yourself immediately after speaking to [your neighbour] but cannot be certain if he did speak with you at this time. Sergeant [E] adds he noted from your correspondence that you did not expect him to attend in person and was looking only for his comments and view of the incident, which he did give you on one of his subsequent visits. Sergeant [E] states the correspondence he received requested his views or comments which he discussed with you plus he took time to review Police response and comments relating to this incident accordingly. Consideration of Complaint 9 In the applicant s of 16 August 2016, she informed Sergeant E of the incident that had occurred on 14 August She also included an attachment in which she explained the circumstances of the incident in more detail. The applicant concluded the document by confirming that she did not expect Sergeant E to visit her in connection with the incident. However, she explained that his comments and views would be helpful. Page 16

18 The applicant ed Sergeant E again on 17 August 2016 to clarify that she was making an expression of dissatisfaction with the outcome of this incident and the decision made. She asked that Sergeant E review the decision of the attending officers not to take any action. On 27 September 2016, the applicant sent a further and attachment to Sergeant E. In point 1 of the attachment she stated What is the position with the complaint I sent to you 6 weeks ago please. She also quoted an excerpt from the Complaints about the Police guide as follows: If your complaint is not about an individual, the person with overall responsibility for your complaint may examine whether the service provided by the police body has fallen short of what you could have reasonably expected and whether lessons can be learned. The applicant again ed Sergeant E on 7 October She asked Sergeant E to acknowledge receipt and to advise as to when she could expect a reply. She informed Sergeant E that she was not willing to accept a conclusion by Front Line Resolution, the process used to deal with complaints more informally at a local level. From the correspondence detailed above, it is evident that the applicant intended to submit a complaint about the police in connection with the handling of the incident of 14 August Although this may not have been entirely clear from her initial correspondence, from the content of her of 27 September 2016, it should have been apparent to Sergeant E that the applicant was submitting a formal complaint about the matter. Accordingly, when assessing the applicant s complaint that Sergeant E did not respond to her of 16 August 2016, Chief Inspector B should have viewed the in the context of the applicant s followup correspondence about the same matter. That would have allowed him to consider whether or not Sergeant E should have logged a formal complaint about the police and acknowledged the same to the applicant. As this was not done, we consider that this complaint was not handled to a reasonable standard. Notwithstanding the above, the applicant separately submitted a letter of complaint addressed to the Chief Constable on 4 October That letter referred to the incident of 14 August 2016 and her the subsequent complaint about the handling of the matter that she submitted to Sergeant E. Those concerns were captured in her statement of complaint and addressed by Police Scotland (complaint 8 in this review). We recommend that Police Scotland apologises to the applicant for its initial failure to record and respond to her complaint. However, as the complaint has now been addressed, no additional action is required of Police Scotland in this connection. Page 17

19 5. Conclusions Complaints 1 and 2 It is concluded that these complaints were not handled to a reasonable standard. For the reasons already provided, no further action is required in this connection. Complaints 3, 4, 7 and 8 It is concluded that these complaints were handled to a reasonable standard. No further action is required in this connection. Complaint 5: Referral to Victim Support It is concluded that this complaint was handled to a reasonable standard. However, we recommended that Police Scotland now record and respond to the applicant s concern that a referral was made to Victim Support without her consent. In addressing the complaint, Police Scotland should obtain a further account from Constable F to establish whether she made the referral to Victim Support and if the applicant s consent was sought. Any documentation relating to the referral should also be considered. A further response should then be issued to the applicant that explains any conclusion reached. Complaint 6: Lack of response to letter of 15 April 2016 It is concluded that this complaint was not handled to a reasonable standard. We recommend that Police Scotland now records the applicant s complaint as upheld. Complaint 9: No response to complaint It is concluded that this complaint was not handled to a reasonable standard. We recommend that Police Scotland apologises to the applicant for its initial failure to record and respond to her complaint. Page 18

20 Additional Recommendation A recommendation is made in relation to how the applicant s complaints were recorded. In his letter of response, Chief Inspector B listed eleven complaints about the police response to the applicant s reports of anti-social behaviour and harassment by her neighbours. Nine of those complaints were brought to the PIRC for review. Although the applicant s eleven complaints were addressed separately in Chief Inspector B s letter, only one broad quality of service complaint was recorded by Police Scotland in the complaint file. Accordingly, only one finding was recorded, namely that the complaint was not upheld. However, as each aspect of the applicant s complaint was capable of being upheld or not upheld independently, we consider that each allegation should have been recorded as an individual head of complaint. We recommend that Police Scotland now records that a total of eleven quality of service complaints were made by the applicant, correctly logs the outcome of each (taking account of any additional recommendations made above), and thereafter confirms to the PIRC that this has been done. Lynn McCord Review Officer Jacqui Jeffrey Senior Review Officer Page 19

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