Justice Secretary updates Parliament on action being taken

Sir Stephen House, 57, right, the chief constable will quit his position next month.Sir Stephen House, 57, right, the chief constable will quit his position next month.
Sir Stephen House, 57, right, the chief constable will quit his position next month.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has updated the Scottish Parliament on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) report into Police Scotland Call Handling.

The review into the functions and capacity of control rooms across the country was commissioned by the Justice Secretary in July this year following the tragic deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill on the M9.

Following receipt of the HMICS report, the Justice Secretary sought assurances that the thirty recommendations will be completed and Police Scotland have today confirmed they will be implemented in full. This includes the recommendation that any further stages of the call handing project should be halted until the Scottish Police Authority receives independent assurance that Police Scotland is ready.

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The report does highlight a number of positive developments that have been taken forward by Police Scotland, including stabilising staffing levels within the control rooms since April 2015 and the implementation of a new, more robust training system for control centre staff to develop this crucial area of business. Performance within control centres has stabilised since the spring with improved performance levels now being consistently reported, and Police Scotland has assured the Scottish Government that their £15m investment in a new expert IT system will be a major step forward in improving future performance.

Mr Matheson updated Parliament on how the £1.4m of Scottish Government funding for staff control centre recruitment is being used. In addition, the Justice Secretary has asked HMICS to undertake a programme of unannounced visits for further assurance on the performance and progress of Police Scotland call centres on a regular basis.

Speaking in the Chamber earlier, Michael Matheson said: “I want to start by once again offering sincere condolences to the families of John Yuill and Lamara Bell for the tragic loss that they have suffered.

“This government is committed to ensuring the public can have confidence in police contact, command and control functions. That is why I directed HMICS to undertake a review, and why I sought the earliest opportunity to update Parliament on its final report. I would like to thank HM Inspector Derek Penman and his team for their work. This comprehensive piece of work has involved more engagement than any previous HMICS review.

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“His report provides confidence that staffing levels are stabilised in the East and West and calls are being answered and actioned. New training is in place for all new staff and recruitment to support the next stages of restructure in the North is actively underway.

“In welcoming the assurances provided by HMICS in this report around quality of customer service, call handling and grading I want to make sure that these standards are maintained the improvements being implemented by Police Scotland deliver the required improvements.

I have therefore asked HMICS to undertake a further programme of unannounced visits to Call Centres across the country.

“This will begin with immediate effect and will be ongoing until the restructure is complete. I have requested that the outcome of these visits is reported back to Police Scotland, SPA and myself clearly identifying any actions that need to be addressed.

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“The report also includes some hard messages for Police Scotland and I have been assured that all 30 of the recommendations will be accepted and actioned by them. It is my strong conviction that investment in staff is as important if not more important than investment in systems.”