Watchdog backs police chief’s return

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Scotland's police watchdog has said Chief Constable Phil Gormley could return to work.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) Kate Frame wrote to MSPs about an investigation into claims of gross misconduct by Mr Gormley.

She said the inquiry would not be prejudiced by him resuming his duties.

Ms Frame said she gave her opinion on the matter to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) last month, after it backed Mr Gormley's return to work.

Her clarification came in a letter to Holyrood's Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee.

She wrote: "I advised the new Chief Officer of the SPA on 11 December 2017 that, as things currently stand, there would be no prejudice to the Pirc investigations if the chief constable was not suspended."

Ms Frame said she was writing to "ensure that there is no ambiguity about the circumstances surrounding my engagement (or rather the lack of it) in the process surrounding the chief constable's absence from duty".

Mr Gormley denies the allegations against him but has been on leave of absence since September.

Tulliallan witnesses

Ms Frame said her views were not sought at that time, although she believed it was correct for the chief constable to step aside initially.

She said: "Had my views been sought at the outset of these investigations, I confirm that I had real and significant concerns that the Pirc investigations may have been prejudiced, if the chief constable had not been suspended.

"My concerns mainly arose from the fact that a large number of the witnesses were police staff from the federated ranks and civilian staff who worked within the executive offices at Police Scotland's headquarters, Tulliallan, and therefore in the immediate vicinity of the chief constable's office.

"Due to the position of power and influence attaching to the chief constable's post, there was a significant concern that those witnesses would not feel free to speak up if the chief constable remained in post.

"The chief constable's period of leave in England has enabled my investigation to complete interviews of the more junior members of staff, who perhaps had the greatest fear of repercussions and provided them with a safe space to be interviewed without any immediate fears."

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