Press Release - HMICS publishes Terms of Reference - strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland

Wednesday, 11 January, 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland has today published his terms of reference for a strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland. This review has been directed by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and although it is not a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, it may inform future discussions as to the requirement for an inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland.

This will be the first time that HMICS has scrutinised undercover policing in Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has set out the following expectations of the review:

  • provide an independent view of the operation, procedures and safeguards in place by Police Scotland in relation to undercover policing, with the objective of providing assurance to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and the public. Where relevant, this should include recommendations to address any gaps in the current operation, processes and safeguards or where opportunities to drive improvement are identified.

  • examine the extent and scale of undercover policing in Scotland by Scottish policing since introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

  • examine the extent and scale of undercover policing operations carried out in Scotland by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in the same period.

  • comment on the contribution made by undercover policing operations towards public safety in Scotland.

To meet these expectations, HMICS will focus on the effectiveness and efficiency of the arrangements currently in place by Police Scotland to authorise, deploy, supervise, manage and scrutinise undercover policing operations in Scotland. We will assess compliance with the relevant law and codes of practice and include a review of all undercover policing activity by Police Scotland since its establishment on 1 April 2013.

We will provide an independent analysis of the extent and scale of undercover policing operations carried out in Scotland by legacy Scottish police forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), and will include those undercover policing operations carried out in Scotland by the NPOIU and the SDS.

This analysis will cover the period since the introduction of both Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (referred to as ‘RIPSA 2000’) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (referred to as ‘RIPA 2000’). In practical terms, our analysis will cover the period from 1 October 2000 until 31 December 2016. This represents the commencement of RIPSA 2000 and was the earliest consideration of covert policing by Scottish Parliament under its devolved responsibility for policing in Scotland.

HMICS will ensure that appropriate stakeholder consultation and engagement is undertaken as part of the review process to understand key issues and concerns.

This strategic review will be led by Derek Penman, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, who states that “To maintain public confidence in policing, the tactics employed in undercover operations must be lawful, proportionate and necessary. They must also be subject to appropriate governance and oversight and police officers engaged in this specialist area of policing must comply with the law as well as the associated codes of practice.

He added that “Our report will provide assurance on whether undercover police operations are operating effectively and efficiently within Scotland, as well as assessing the contribution they make to public safety. In terms of safeguards, we will balance the requirement for visibility and transparency of undercover policing in Scotland with the need to protect sensitive covert policing techniques and operational deployments.”

Subject to the complexities and external dependencies involved in this review, we will endeavour to provide our final report to Scottish Ministers in sufficient time for it to be laid before the Scottish Parliament on return from the summer recess on 4 September 2017.

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