Section 35 – Examination of manner of handling of complaint
60.This section outlines the manner in which the Commissioner can review the way in which a complaint against the police has been handled. Such a review can be requested either by the complainer (for example, if dissatisfied with the way their complaint has been handled) or by the police organisation concerned (for example, if it believes it has gone as far as it can to resolve the complaint and considers there is merit in the Commissioner looking at the matter). The Commissioner may only carry out a review requested by a police organisation if satisfied that the organisation has already taken reasonable steps to deal with the complaint itself.
61.Subsection (3) places the Commissioner under a duty to inform the complainer and any person who is serving with the police who may be the subject of a complaint, about the outcome of a review and what action the Commissioner proposes to take. The Commissioner is also required to produce a report of the complaint handling review and send this to the appropriate authority in relation to the complaint (as defined in section 41). Subsection (5) enables the Scottish Ministers to make regulations which set out exceptions to this duty but only in certain circumstances.
62.The section goes on to lay out the process through which, following a review, the Commissioner can direct that a complaint be reconsidered. The Commissioner can direct either the appropriate authority in relation to the complaint, or another relevant authority (as defined in section 47) to reconsider the complaint. The authority which reconsiders the complaint is known as the reconsidering authority. There may be occasions when the Commissioner decides, in light of the circumstances of the complaint, that it is more appropriate that a different police force or another relevant authority considers how that complaint was handled, rather than the force or authority which initially received the complaint.
63.Subsection (10) provides that where a relevant complaint has led to police disciplinary procedures being invoked (as set out in any regulations made under section 26(2A)(a) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967), the Commissioner’s power to intervene and issue a reconsideration direction is limited to the application of those disciplinary procedures. This means that if the Commissioner considers that these procedures have not been adhered to following a complaint made by a member of the public, he or she can issue a direction for the appropriate authority in relation to the complaint to reconsider the application of those procedures; but he or she cannot direct that appropriate authority to reach a different disciplinary conclusion or outcome.
64.Subsection (11)(b) allows the Commissioner directly to supervise any reconsideration process should he or she choose to do so.