HMICS Independent Assurance Review - Police Scotland Counter Corruption Unit

Monday, 27 June, 2016

The aim of our Assurance Review is to independently assess the state, effectiveness and efficiency of Police Scotland’s Counter Corruption Unit (CCU). The background to this review is outlined within our terms of reference, which were published on 11 January 2016.

This HMICS review was requested by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in response to a finding by the Interception of Communications Commissioner that there had been contraventions of the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data, Code of Practice 2015 in respect of five applications for communications data submitted by Police Scotland. These related to one investigation being undertaken by Police Scotland’s CCU. Although our review has not re-examined this finding by the Commissioner, we have taken the opportunity to examine the wider investigation conducted by the CCU into the circumstances which initially gave rise to these applications. The intention behind our review was to independently determine the facts and to identify practical lessons that will assist in improving police counter corruption practices in Scotland.

Our report has been separated into two parts:

  • Part one – This case study comprised a detailed review and assessment of the initial referral to the CCU relative to the alleged disclosure of sensitive information to a journalist. This included the subsequent investigation into the circumstances which gave rise to the applications for communications data that were found by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) to have contravened the statutory Code of Practice (2015).


  • Part two – Using our Inspection Framework, as shown in our methodology we have concluded a thorough Assurance Review, testing the operational practice of the CCU and compliance with relevant legislation, codes of practice, policies, procedures and recognised best practice.

During our review we have accessed sensitive operational information and risk assessed the potential for compromise of individuals and roles. In order to determine whether the CCU investigation was necessary, proportionate and objective, we examined restricted intelligence files and interviewed key individuals. We have respected the anonymity and confidentiality of those individuals who have provided information to the CCU, and where appropriate we have protected the identity of such sources and the identity of operational police officers and members of police staff.

Our review was undertaken across five stages with a number of activities carried out concurrently. We examined relevant strategies, policies, policing plans and analytical products that are designed specifically to address the threat from corruption. We also researched media reports and websites to determine how the CCU is perceived by the public.

In accordance with our duty of user focus, we gained a user perspective from key stakeholders, including staff associations and relevant partners. We held a focus group with police officers who had been subject to CCU investigations, which was facilitated by a solicitor acting on their behalf. We also carried out benchmarking activity with Merseyside Police to compare and contrast Police Scotland’s approach to tackling corruption with that deployed by Merseyside Police.

Chief officers and senior managers within the CCU have co-operated fully throughout our review and the senior leadership within Police Scotland are committed to preventing corruption and investigating wrongdoing in a professional and ethical manner.

As a consequence of our review, Police Scotland will be asked to create an action plan in order that our recommendations are taken forward. We will monitor progress against this plan and publish our findings as part of our annual reporting process. We welcome the commitment from the Chief Constable and the Chair of the SPA to implement all our recommendations.

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