Over half police sexual misconduct complaints involve on-duty staff

Over 400 allegations of sexual misconduct were made towards Police Scotland staff between January 2017 and October 2021.

Over half of Police Scotland sexual misconduct complaints happened while staff on duty iStock

More than half of sexual misconduct complaints reported within Police Scotland happened while staff were on duty, a report from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has revealed.

Some 410 allegations were made between January 2017 and October 2021, including allegations of sexual assault (30%), inappropriate comments (17%), and inappropriate messaging (13%).

A total of 63% of these occurred whilst staff were on duty.

The figures, which were reported publicly to the SPA’s Complaints and Conduct Committee in May last year, were revealed in papers released before its annual authority meeting on Thursday.

The SPA said following a number of high-profile cases, including the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, there has been a push for UK police forces to look at their internal approach to professional boundaries.

In October 2021, Police Scotland commissioned a review of all complaints and conduct matters which had been reported to or within the organisation since January 2017 and which contained sexual circumstances.

While it found hundreds of complaints, the SPA’s Complaints and Conduct Committee annual report said the review found “no significant issues in terms of how these matters were investigated”.

The report said: “Opportunities were identified to enhance organisational learning and raise awareness of the Standards of Professional Behaviour (as set out in the Police Service of Scotland (Conduct) Regulations 2014 and which reflect the expectations of officers, whether on or off duty).

“A number of recommendations were identified, including enhancement of vetting arrangements, and a range of actions and preventative activity to be progressed over the forthcoming 12 months.”

The SPA said the review will be refreshed to cover the period from October 2021 to the present day.

A policy surrounding the investigation of sexual or domestic abuse offending by officers on or off duty is also under way, according to one of the reports released ahead of the meeting.

While the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has a key role in investigating on-duty criminality by police officers, the paper said “it was recommended and has been agreed that Police Scotland will immediately develop and introduce a policy which addresses investigative ownership”.

Other papers published ahead of the meeting include reports from senior police staff, including the chief constable and chairperson of the SPA, and reviews on other matters such as finances, resources and future policing.

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