Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Police Chief & Sheriff clash over ‘cover up culture’ within Police Scotland as top cop slapped down by judge over attempt to interfere with judiciary

Top cop slapped down for interfering with sheriff. CHIEF CONSTABLE Sir Stephen House – in charge of Scotland’s single Police service Police Scotland  has been ‘slapped down’ by a senior judicial figure amid allegations he attempted to interfere with the role of Scottish Sheriffs.

Chief Constable House demanded a meeting with Scotland’s Sheriff Principal Brian Lockhart to voice his anger at comments made by Sheriff Robert H Dickson - who suggested a cover-up culture may exist within Scotland’s single Police Force.

However, after an angry exchange of letters between the two, Sheriff Principal Lockhart refused to meet with the top cop – and then went on to accuse Chief Constable House of failing to “recognise the role of the judiciary”.

The spat between Scotland’s most senior Police Officer and a senior judge was reported by 'The National' newspaper earlier today.

The row erupted after a case at in December at Airdrie Sheriff Court, which prompted Sheriff Robert H Dickson to jail PC David Carmichael for seven months after he was convicted of lying to protect a colleague who was drunk driving.

The row between Scotland’s top cop and members of the judiciary erupted after a case at in December at Airdrie Sheriff Court - which prompted Sheriff Robert H Dickson to jail PC David Carmichael for seven months after he was convicted of lying to protect a colleague who was drunk driving.

In his sentencing, Sheriff Dickson said the evidence “suggests that there may be a perceived culture that police officers are willing to prevent the arrest and prosecution of a colleague”.

He added: “If that culture exists, then every superior officer and anybody involved in the training of the police must ensure that it is stamped out forthwith.”

Chief Constable Sir House – angered at the comments of the sheriff -  demanded a meeting to discuss the case with Sheriff Dickson’s boss – Sheriff Principal Brian Lockhart, but was rebuffed.

In letters, House criticises Dickson for raising concerns about Police Scotland’s integrity in public and says he should have raised them directly with the police or through the Sheriff Principal.

But Sheriff Principal Lockhart wrote back to say: “Sheriff Dickson was entitled to draw from the facts before him that this cover-up may not have been a one-off incident”.

Sheriff Principal Lockhart added there is “ample evidence” to support Sheriff Dickson’s claims: “These were carefully phrased expressions of concern, justified by the evidence in the case before him.”

The sheriff said Dickson had every right to make the remarks, in order that “public confidence in the judicial system is not further damaged. To suggest otherwise fails to recognise the role of the judiciary”

He continues: “The integrity of the police force is not merely a matter of concern to senior police officers but to us all.”

The case related to in incident in 2010, when PC David Carmichael and fellow officer, probationer PC Justyna Niedzwiecka responded to a call about a drunk driver in Coatbridge, who turned out to be PC Daryl McKillion.

Instead of breathalysing the drunk policeman, Carmichael radioed in to control to say that nobody had answered the door.

Niedzwiecka reported the matter to a senior officer.

The call about McKillion had come from an off-duty detective who had seen the PC buy a bottle of whisky and get into a car.

McKillion, who was suffering from severe depression, took his life three weeks later.

Professor James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, said House was attacking the messenger.

Chalmers said: “It may only be a problem of perception, but that’s still a real problem which he has a responsibility to do something about. The problem seems to be one of perception within the force rather than more generally, so there’s no room for the argument that the sheriff was making the problem worse by speaking out publicly.

“On the plus side, it’s good to see the independence of the judiciary defended so robustly, which is particularly important now that we have a single police force”.

Former policeman and Scottish Parliament Justice committee member John Finnie MSP defended Sir Stephen: “It is important there is a frank exchange of views. The independence of the judiciary must be guarded in any liberal democracy. I well understand the chief constable’s spirited defence, because the overwhelming majority of police officers act with integrity.

“In this case the standards were dropped and I don’t think the chief’s comments were at all unreasonable.”

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “The correspondence clearly sets out the chief constable’s rejection of the claim that such practice may have been widespread and his personal condemnation of any officer who wilfully neglects their duty and that all members of Police Scotland are expected to maintain the organisation’s highest professional standards.

“It also clearly sets out the respect for the independent role of the judiciary but does express concern that the original comments by Sheriff Dickson could have been misconstrued”.

Amid calls for a statement on the matter from Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway – who is currently acting Lord President – the Judicial Office refused to give any further comment.

Police Scotland was created by the Scottish Government in early 2013 after local policing across Scotland was scrapped in favour of a more easily ‘controlled’ and now highly politicised policing service steered by PR driven headlines to assist Scottish Ministers increasingly dodgy claims regarding crime statistics.

The current make up of the force – which has been subject to budget cuts, loss of key staff & has rumblings of low morale among  officers - has recently hit the headlines over alleged bullying within it’s ranks, the dodgy crime statistics, alleged targets for certain types of crimes, and support for questionable changes in the law backed by headline grabbing politicians and dodgy Crown Office prosecutors out to fiddle their own conviction rates.

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