PIRC learned of policy change through media

Michael Matheson

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) was not informed about a change in the gathering of operational statements until it was announced in the Scottish Parliament, it has emerged.

On the advice of the Crown Office, a memo was circulated to police officers on 26 March advising them that operational statements would no longer be obtained from on-duty officers subject to a criminal complaint.

However, PIRC did not become aware of this until Justice Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed the change publicly on 9 June.

A spokesman for PIRC told The Scotsman: “The PIRC became aware that a memo in relation to operational statements had been issued by Police Scotland to its officers after a quote to this effect from the service appeared in the media.”

A copy of the memo was subsequently shared with PIRC.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland added that there has been “no correspondence between Police Scotland and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner specifically on the subject of operational statements”.

The revelation was criticised by Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the family of Sheku Bayoh, whose death in police custody is currently being investigated by PIRC.

Mr Anwar said: “Given this was such a fundamental shift in what police officers can or can’t do, you would have thought PIRC would have been advised of this.

“If the PIRC’s response is to simply say it doesn’t really concern them, then why not?

“If the watchdog which has the job of holding Police Scotland to account doesn’t even know of a memorandum like this, then that is a sorry state of affairs.”