Scotland politics

Scottish police watchdog to hire more staff

police officers Image copyright Getty Images

The Scottish police watchdog is planning to recruit more staff to help it deal with a surge in cases.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) Kate Frame said resources had been "stretched to the limit".

The organisation has about 30 full-time equivalent investigators working on 31 live investigations.

Ms Frame said there had been a "considerable rise" in the number of cases involving senior police officers.

In a letter to the convenor of Holyrood's justice committee, Margaret Mitchell, she said recruitment would start soon. The additional staff should be in place by April.

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 (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."

Budget increase

The commissioner said she welcomed the additional funding she is set to be given, an increase in her budget of more than £1m.

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.

Image copyright PIRC
Image caption Kate Frame welcomed the additional resources being made available

"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."

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 £1m in the forthcoming financial year.

"That would increase its budget by almost 30%, 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."

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