A retired Strathclyde Police Officer, John Mitchell has been appointed as the first Director of Investigations working for Professor John McNeill, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland (PCCS).
A former Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of CID at Strathclyde Police, Mr Mitchell retired in July and was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2012.
The appointment of the Director of Investigations is the most senior appointment made by the Commissioner this year as he prepares to take on an expanded remit and greater powers from 1 April 2013, when the PCCS becomes the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
John Mitchell said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to take up the role of Director of Investigations by the Commissioner. My priority will be to ensure that the investigations team is resourced, trained and ready to carry out effective investigations from April next year.”
Speaking about the appointment Professor McNeill said: “The creation of PIRC represents an important step forward in how we hold the police to account in Scotland. I am delighted to have secured such a well-respected and experienced individual as John for this important role and look forward to welcoming him formally to the organisation on November. I have asked him to join the Scottish Government-led project to establish the PIRC and I am confident that, with the support of all parties, we will be fully prepared for our statutory duties by April 2013.”
The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 will, from April 1 2013, extend the remit of the PCCS from its current complaint review function to include independent investigations into the most serious incidents involving the police.
The types of investigations Mr Mitchell will lead include fatal road collisions involving police vehicles, deaths in custody, discharge of firearms by police officers, as well as investigations into criminal allegations against members of the police service. These investigations may be carried out under the direction of Crown, at the request of the Scottish Police Authority or the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland and, can also be instigated by the Commissioner himself, where there is a clear public interest.
Currently, these incidents are investigated by another police force in Scotland at the request of the Chief Constable or at the direction of Crown. However, from April the advent of a single Police Service of Scotland means that this option would not provide the assurance required by the public that there was effective oversight of the police in Scotland.
One of the first tasks facing the Director of Investigations will be to advise the Commissioner on the structure and recruitment strategy for the investigative arm of the PIRC. It is anticipated that he will lead a team of up to 22 investigators with a mix of skills and experience drawn from a range of backgrounds.
The PIRC will provide independent oversight of the second largest police service in the UK, behind the Metropolitan Police in London.
From April 1 2013 PIRC will investigate :
1. allegations of a criminal nature (as directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service)
2. death in police custody (under direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service)
3. death following police contact
4. police use of firearms and other weapons as specified in regulations (referral by Chief Constable to PIRC)
5. serious injury in police custody or following police contact (referral by Chief Constable to PIRC)
6. complaints made against senior officers (at the request of the Scottish Police Authority)
7. relevant police matters where the Commissioner considers it would be in the public interest to do so.