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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 08:19 GMT
Police call for complaints reform
By Alex Robertson
BBC Scotland news website
Glasgow and West reporter

Police tape
About 74% of complaints against police were dropped
Police officers need greater protection against malicious complaints, according to the body which represents them.

Research by the Strathclyde Police Federation said there were more than 5,000 misconduct complaints in the past four years, but only three convictions.

About 3,800 complaints were marked no proceedings or found unsubstantiated, but not one has been prosecuted for wasting police time.

Strathclyde Joint Police Board said the issue was under consideration.

Few outside the service will understand or appreciate the pressure and stress that officers will undergo during an investigation
Jim Duffy
Strathclyde Police Federation

Strathclyde Police Federation represents 98.5% of about 7,000 officers in Scotland's largest force.

Federation chair Jim Duffy has written to councillors to highlight the issue and prompt debate.

Mr Duffy said he "fully accepts" there needs to be a police complaints system.

But he said: "From over 5,000 complaints it is unreasonable to expect that not one appears to be malicious or without foundation.

"Police officers can be victims of crime.

Complaints 2001 to 2005
Police officers
5,190 complaints
111,708 hours of investigation
35 court cases
Three prosecutions
74% unsubstantiated or no proceedings
No public prosecutions

"Few outside the service will understand or appreciate the pressure and stress that officers will undergo during an investigation.

"Fewer still will understand the anger and frustration felt by officers when a complaint which is clearly without foundation is investigated to its conclusion and no action is taken against the complainer."

He said he highlighted the situation with "a view to affording police officers some degree of protection and redress".

'Considerable sympathy'

Strathclyde Joint Police Board has replied to Strathclyde Police Federation.

A letter from convener Jean McFadden states: "The members do have considerable sympathy for those officers who find themselves unjustifiably the subject of a false or malicious complaint.

"There are now under consideration proposals, arising out of the Irvine Report, to address comprehensively the matters of complaints generally.

"This debate will also address inevitably the issue of potentially false or vexatious complaints.

"There is an opportunity for the federation to address this issue through the debate."

Strathclyde Police said it had no comment to make on Mr Duffy's letter.

Human rights lawyer John Scott said there was a host of reasons why a complaint might not be proved.

He said: "The majority of police officers are honest and do the job very well but the very small number that aren't are not stupid enough, generally, to do anything in front of witnesses.

"When complaints are made, very often pressure is put on people to withdraw the complaints and it can be made difficult for them."

Mr Scott called for a proper independent complaints commission so the police do not carry out investigations themselves.

Watch opposing views on police complaints

Police complaints review launched
24 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Police complaints report released
19 Dec 02 |  Scotland

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