HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc932-3
36. Mr. Canavan

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland whether he will instruct regional procurators fiscal to give more comprehensive replies to people who have formally submitted a complaint about criminal misconduct by the police.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I do not consider it necessary to give any such instruction. All persons who make a complaint of criminal conduct by a police officer are precognosced by the procurator fiscal. With the request to attend for precognition there is sent a note which explains in detail the procedures followed and the considerations taken into account in deciding whether criminal proceedings should be instituted.

Mr. Canavan

What advice would the Solicitor-General give to somebody who lodges such a complaint, has to resist considerable police pressure to withdraw the complaint and spends considerable time and effort obtaining legal advice to pursue the complaint, getting the names and addresses of witnesses and being cross-examined by a senior police officer and the procurator fiscal, only to receive a curt, two-sentence letter months later from the regional procurator fiscal saying that no action is to be taken? If the regional procurator fiscal cannot even be bothered to try to give an explanation of why no action has been taken, is it any wonder that many people consider that it is almost a complete waste of time lodging a complaint against the police because the system is biased in favour of the establishment and against the complainant?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Anyone who makes a complaint against the police, as I have already said, is given a full explanation of the procedures that will be followed through and what might have happened if at the end of the day there are to be no proceedings. One reason, which the hon. Gentleman might appreciate, why that note is, as he describes it, curt, is that it might be that in the circumstances, as in other cases, the procurator fiscal has given a warning to the person involved. As the hon. Gentleman may well recall from a debate that we had some time ago in the Scottish Grand Committee, it was clearly his view and that of his hon. Friends that where a warning was to be given by a procurator fiscal it should not be widely divulged.