MSPs to question senior police figures amid Chief Constable controversy

23 January 2018, 05:24

scottish parliament

MSPs are to grill senior policing figures amid continued controversy surrounding the status of Chief Constable Phil Gormley.

Holyrood's Justice Committee will question acting chief constable Iain Livingstone and Scottish Police Authority (SPA) chair Susan Deacon against the backdrop of a row surrounding Mr Gormley's reinstatement.

Scotland's top police officer is currently on special leave while the subject of four investigations by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) relating to allegations of gross misconduct, all of which he denies.

Last month it emerged the SPA, under former chair Andrew Flanagan, had agreed Mr Gormley's return to duty, drafting a press release in consultation with his lawyers which stated that arrangements had been put in place to support the welfare of officers involved in the probes.

The decision was reversed following an intervention from Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who told parliament key parties had not been consulted and there was a "particular concern" about the impact the chief constable's return could have on those who had made the allegations.

Mr Matheson said he had questioned "clear deficiencies" in the SPA's decision-making process, causing the body to reverse the move.

He has been heavily criticised by Mr Gormley's lawyer David Morgan, who said there was "no lawful basis" for the intervention.

Opposition parties have also rounded on the justice secretary, questioning why no minutes were taken during the crucial meeting between Mr Matheson and Mr Flanagan when the issue was discussed.

Mr Livingstone also waded into the row by stating the claim in the press release that arrangements were in place for officer welfare was "not true", while Mr Gormley's wife Claire entered the fray claiming her husband had not been interviewed about misconduct claims seven months after the allegations were first made.

The committee session is aimed at discussing the strategic direction and priorities of Police Scotland and the SPA, with written submissions from both organisations acknowledging the need to improve.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: "This is a timely opportunity to hear from Scotland's policing leadership.

"The acknowledgement of the need to improve by the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland is welcome.

"Hopefully this Committee session will provide a clear indication of how these improvements will be made."