Justice minister slams police board in chief constable row

MSPs to quiz Justice Secretary on police chief's special leave

MSPs to quiz Justice Secretary on police chief's special leave

The former SNP MSP claimed there were "serious questions" over the leadership of Phil Gormley, who is on special leave while allegations of gross misconduct are investigated.

Michael Matheson is to make a formal statement on Mr Gormley's future at Holyrood on Wednesday.

Scotland's justice secretary has criticised the Scottish Police Authority over its attempt to bring the chief constable back to work.

Allegations against Mr Gormley, when he confirmed he was the subject of a probe by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

He initially stayed on in his post, but that year after a further allegation was made, and has remained off work while.

Speaking in parliament, Mr Matheson admitted he had intervened to query the decision by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the supervisory body for Police Scotland, to invite Mr Gormley to return to work in November past year.

"It is hard to understand how a decision could be made to for the Chief Constable to return without first confirming that doing so would not undermine the independent investigations, or the confidence of staff engaged in that process", he told MSPs.

Phil Gormley Police Scotland's Chief Constable
Phil Gormley Police Scotland's Chief Constable Credit PA

The way in which the set-up is now structured means we are learning about each and every complaint, it seems, that is made against the chief constable.

He said "key parties had not been consulted", including investigators, and said that "there did not appear to be a robust plan in place to protect the wellbeing of officers and staff who had raised complaints or who may have been asked to play a role in the investigations". It said there was "no lawful basis for the Scottish government's intervention or interference with the lawful decision of the SPA".

Mr Matheson said he had uncovered "clear deficiencies" in the SPA's decision-making process which he described as "completely unacceptable".

Scottish Labour's justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said Mr Matheson's actions had "enhanced" the "crisis" engulfing Scottish policing.

The decision for Mr Gormley to be placed on leave is kept under review by the board of the SPA, who will next consider the matter on January 25.

He revealed that he only discovered on 9 November that the SPA had decided at a "private meeting" two days earlier to allow Mr Gormley to return to duty.

A lawyer representing Chief Constable Phil Gormley insisted the complaints against him were "vexatious" and "opportunistic".

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