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Dozens of police officers avoid misconduct cases by quitting since ministers urged to close 'loophole'

31 January 2024, 07:01

Dozens of Police Scotland officers have avoided misconduct proceedings by quitting the force in the three years since SNP ministers were urged to change Holyrood laws to stop officers from escaping disciplinary action, LBC has learned
Dozens of Police Scotland officers have avoided misconduct proceedings by quitting the force in the three years since SNP ministers were urged to change Holyrood laws to stop officers from escaping disciplinary action, LBC has learned. Picture: Alamy

By Alan Zycinski

Dozens of Police Scotland officers have avoided misconduct proceedings by quitting the force in the three years since SNP ministers were urged to change Holyrood laws to stop officers from escaping disciplinary action, LBC has learned.

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A Freedom of Information request shows 15 officers either resigned or retired in the last year while subject to the complaints process.

It means more than sixty have now done so since 2019, while thirty-five have quit since a review was launched into the rules by Dame Elish Angiolini at the end of 2020.

Dame Elish's recommendation was for laws to be brought closer in line with England and Wales where - unlike in Scotland - proceedings can continue even if the officer leaves their post and complainers may not be left without a resolution.

She stated at the time: "I believe there is a strong public interest in dealing fully and thoroughly with police officers' gross misconduct after they have left the police service and no longer hold the important office of constable".

The Scottish government then launched a public consultation and committed to changing the law in 2022 - but is still yet to fulfil this.

A bill to to change the law is still at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament, having only been introduced in June last year.

Our Freedom of Information request shows fifteen officers either resigned or retired in the last year while subject to the complaints process
Our Freedom of Information request shows fifteen officers either resigned or retired in the last year while subject to the complaints process. Picture: Alamy

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Scottish Conservatives Justice Spokesman Russell Findlay has questioned why it’s taken so long to get to this point while officers continue to quit.

He told LBC: "This loophole is being used on a large scale despite Angiolini calling on SNP ministers to close it more than 3 years ago.

"The vast majority of good police officers, along with the public, expect a complaints system that is fair, efficient and transparent."

However the Scottish Police Federation's General Secretary David Kennedy has previously opposed changing legislation.

He said: "The Scottish Police Federation are opposed to any employee or police officer being unable to resign or retire whilst they wait on the service or employer to finish misconduct proceedings against them.

"Police officers in Scotland if accused of criminality are reported to the Crown in the first instance and after criminal procedures have finished then face misconduct procedures.

"If an officer is convicted of a crime it would be normal that they may choose to resign as a police officer rather than endure misconduct proceedings to force them from the service.

"Misconduct allegations can also be for less serious offences that would not be career ending but officers still choose to resign or retire.

"The main point in gross misconduct proceedings is to make sure that police officers who remain in service are fit to hold the office of constable.

"Someone resigning gets the same result as any misconduct process would and is at much less cost to the public purse.

"There is no financial gain to an officer resigning versus being dismissed."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government introduced the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) Scotland Bill to the Scottish Parliament last year to further improve the police complaints and misconduct process.

“The Bill includes provisions which change the processes for handling situations to ensure justice can be pursued even after a police officer retires or resigns, and creates Barred and Advisory Lists to stop those who do not meet the high standards expected of police officers from gaining employment in policing.

“This builds on the significant improvement work already delivered by policing partners since Dame Elish Angiolini published her report in November 2020.”

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