Justice secretary to address Holyrood as policing reports released

Michael Matheson

Two reports on Police Scotland’s call handling and use of stop and search were released today as Justice Secretary Michael Matheson  prepares to appear before MSPs.

Mr Matheson will make a statement on policing in theScottish Parliament today, a week after chief constable Sir Stephen House announced he will be resigning by December and two days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced changes to police governance.

He is expected to appear before the chamber at 2.15pm. His statement will be broadcast live online through the Scottish Parliament website.

It is believed his statement will include the name of the new Scottish Police Authority chairman who will succeed Vic Emery.

Mr Matheson will also speak on the content of two reports which have heaped further pressure on Scotland’s embattled police service.

The independent Stop And Search Advisory Group led by John Scott QChas reported back on its review into Police Scotland’s consensual stop and search policy.

The report (available here) recommends the introduction of a statutory code of practice for stop and search, and that the use of non-statutory stop and search should end when the code of practice comes into effect.

The report states: “If non-statutory stop and search is ended, officers of Police Scotland will still be able to carry out their duties effectively. Abolition will not result in any significant gaps.”

It adds: “It seems clear that the use of targets, or KPIs, featuring stop and search, led to a proliferation in the use of the tactic, both before and following the establishment of Police Scotland.”

The report also proposes an early consultation on whether the police should have the power to search children under the age of 18 for alcohol.

The report’s findings may lead to further legislative changes as part of theCriminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which is already moving through Holyrood.

A second report published today, conducted by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), looks into call handling procedures in the national police force.

The review was ordered by the Scottish government after police discovered the body of a man and a seriously injured woman in a crashed car three days after the accident was reported in 101 call.

The HMICS interim report (available here) makes a number of “interim recommendations”, but HMICS is continuing to collect evidence ahead of a final report to be issued in October.

The interim report calls for efforts to “consolidate and stabilise” the police’s “staffing, systems, procedures and processes in both the East and West service centres and area control rooms”.

It states service centres marked for closure in Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness should be maintained until the new North Area Control Room opens.

The report also says Police Scotland are “likely to require to secure additional resources” and a business case should be developed for this purpose.