Friday, May 09, 2008

Police Chief accused of deceit in McLeod death inquiry call

There seems little willingness on the part of Northern Constabulary to give the McLeod family a fresh inquiry into the death of Kevin McLeod in Wick Harbour in February 1997.

There also seems little willingness on the part of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to do anything about it, despite the obvious need for action ...

The JohnO'Groat's Journal reports :

Police chief deceived us, say McLeods

By Iain Grant

NORTHERN Constabulary's top officer is being accused of deceit over calls for a fresh investigation into the Kevin McLeod case.

Chief Constable Ian Latimer has ruled out a new probe into how Kevin met his death in Wick harbour in February 1997.

That followed a "clear-the-air" meeting before Christmas with Kevin's family, who are convinced he was savagely beaten up shortly before he went into the water.

The McLeods insist that the North's senior policeman then made it clear he would come to a decision after liaising with the Crown Office.

They are furious after establishing that no contact was made and that responsibility for any move to launch a so-called cold case review rests exclusively with the police force.

Kevin's uncle, Allan McLeod, said yesterday it is the latest in a series of blocks and knock-backs the family have had in their quest to find out what happened to Kevin, who was 24.

He said he and Kevin's parents, June and Hugh McLeod, have lost faith with the Scottish judicial process and are now keen to pursue a case with the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr McLeod said Mr Latimer had assured both the family and local MP John Thurso at the meeting that he would consult with the Crown Office about the request for the new probe.

He said: "We are absolutely furious and disappointed but not surprised that the chief constable has again pulled the wool over the eyes of not only the family but also John Thurso. He's deceived us and given us false hope."

Mr McLeod said the family had gleaned from a Crown Office source that Mr Latimer had not been in touch after the meeting. This, he said, had been confirmed in a recent letter from Solicitor General Frank Mulholland to John Thurso.

In it, Mr Mulholland stated: "The Crown Office has not issued any communication to Northern Constabulary which either directly or by implication instructs that there should be no further investigation or review.

"It is a matter for Northern Constabulary to consider whether it wishes to undertake any further review."

He added: "If any review is carried out, the Crown Office and the procurator fiscal office would be happy to be consulted by any review team and to receive their report.

"As previously explained, the matter of whether to instruct an internal or external review of the case is one for the police."

Mr Mulholland said the case was not closed and that any new evidence should be brought to the attention of either the police or the procurator fiscal at Wick.

Allan McLeod said Mr Latimer could easily have made it clear to the family that the decision on whether or not to carry out a review lay solely with him.

"He's afraid of the truth being exposed which would cause yet more embarrassment and question his integrity and position along with his force's credibility," Mr McLeod claimed, adding: "If he has nothing to hide or fear, and wants to finally lay this matter to rest once and for all, why refuse our request?"

At the pre-Christmas meeting, Mr Latimer made an unreserved apology to the family for failings on the part of his force.

This followed two highly critical reports – the first by Chief Constable Andrew Cameron of Central Scotland Police and the second by Scottish Police Complaints Commissioner Jim Martin.

The latter report accused the force's top brass of "institutional arrogance".

Mr Latimer recently invited the family to a follow-up meeting when they would get a chance to discuss the evidence in the case with a senior officer.

Mr McLeod described the initiative as a "PR exercise".

He said: "We await our solicitor's advice on this but we suspect this would be a waste of time and effort."

He said they would not deviate from their efforts to initiate a fresh investigation. He said: "During my family's 11-year fight for justice, Northern Constabulary has provided no support whatsoever or shown any respect or compassion towards us. All we want is an independent review or investigation which we believe is not too much to ask for.

"In refusing our request, Mr Latimer is acting as the judge and the jury. In so doing, he has denied Kevin justice and allowed those people we suspect murdered him to walk free."

Following Mr Latimer's refusal to instruct a fresh probe, John Thurso, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, asked the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini to intervene.

A spokesman for Northern Constabulary said last night: "It has been brought to our attention that there may have been correspondence between Mr Mulholland and the McLeod family via John Thurso.

"This would appear to be private correspondence of which we have no knowledge and therefore we will not be making any comment."

No comments: