RSS

Tag Archives: Police Scotland

COPS & JOBBERS: Scotland’s 1,512 ‘Two Job’ Cops required to declare outside business interests – meanwhile 700+ strong Scots judiciary resist Holyrood probe calling for judges’ register of interests

Cops declare business interests, judges conceal their interests. MORE THAN fifteen hundred officers from Police Scotland – Scotland’s single national Police force – supplement their public salaries with second jobs and business interests ranging from entertainment to finance, legal, property letting and private security related businesses.

Police Officers – who as first responders to issues of public safety concerns and reports of criminal activity – are required to declare their interests to Police Scotland. The information is then kept on a database which can be accessed via Freedom of Information legislation.

However, in comparison – members of Scotland’s 700 plus strong judiciary – who take the ultimate decisions on the results of Police detection of crime – do not share any details on their outside interests save a handful of judges who serve on the ruling Board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

A Freedom of Information request recently published by Police Scotland on the website whatdotheyknow reveals figures of at least 1,512 Police Officers who have business interests outside their main employment in the Police Service for Scotland.

All police officer business interests are granted by the Chief Constable, which are based on their own particular circumstances and review dates are similarly set (based on individual circumstances).

The information relating to business interests of Police Officers is recorded on the HR system (SCOPE).

Police Officers in Scotland  are required to conform to the provisions of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013 which state: “A constable must not have a business interest without the consent of— (a) the Authority, in the case of a senior officer; (b) the chief constable, in the case of any other constable, provided that, in the case of any such constable in whose case the chief constable has an interest otherwise than as chief constable, the chief constable must refer the matter to the Authority for it to consider whether to consent.”

The FOI request published by Police Scotland which also sought details of Police Officers ‘secondary employment’ drew a response stating the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013 does not recognise the term ‘secondary employment’.

The published response from Police Scotland goes on to state: “However, Regulation 5 of the aforesaid regulations outlines the provisions concerning any ‘business interest’ of a police officer.”

An earlier Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland revealed certain business interests of the force’s top cops, :

For Chief Officers, this permission is granted (under Regulation 5 of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013) by the Police Authority. The conditions and circumstances are outlined in this legislation which is available online, therefore section 25(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 applies: information which the applicant can reasonably obtain other than by requesting it under section 1(1) is exempt information.

Information provided by Police Scotland revealed executive members (including the now resigned DCC Neil Richardson) business interests from 1 April 2014-31 March 2015.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick: Property letting, Member and Trustee of various Charitable Organisations

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson: Property letting, Board Member for Scottish Institute of Policy Research Trustee/Vice President of various Police Associations

Journalists then requested further details from Police Scotland in a request for review of the FOI disclosure, requesting the organisations referenced in the initial disclosure be identified.

The subsequent response from Police Scotland revealed:

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson: Trustee, The Police Treatment Centres charity; Vice President, Police Mutual Board Member; The Scottish Institute for Policing Research.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick: Member, Scottish Chief Police Officers Association; Trustee, The Rank Foundation (Charitable Organisation); Trustee, Salle Ossian Community Sports Club (Charitable Organisation); Advisory Panel Member, Dfuse (Charitable Organisation; Patron, Revolving Doors (Charitable Organisation)

In relation to the numbers of properties rented out by senior Police Officers, Police Scotland refused to release details on the numbers of properties.

Police Scotland said in their response to the Freedom of Information request:  “In relation to the number of properties relating to each Deputy Chief Constable, I have decided not to provide this level of information requested by you as it is considered to be exempt in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act).”

“The number of properties which the respective Deputy Chief Constables hold as business interests is classed as personal information and as such Police Scotland believes that the disclosure of this information would cause unwarranted prejudice to the rights and freedoms and legitimate interests of the data subjects. Accordingly, release of this  information into the public domain would breach the requirement to process personal data fairly, as laid down by the first data protection principle in Schedule 1 of the Data  Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and does not require the application of the public interest test”

Police Scotland also refused to provide any values for the properties rented out by senior Police Officers, claiming the force did not hold the information:

Police Scotland said in their response: “Finally, Police Scotland does not hold details on the value of each property, as there is no requirement to do so under Regulation 5 of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013.”

The omission of any property values in the data ‘held’ by Police Scotland make it difficult to determine whether individual officers rent out lower or higher value properties, and  establish a value of property portfolios held by serving public officials such as top cops – who’s counterparts higher up the ladder in the criminal justice system and courts are known to own multi million pound property portfolios.

In comparison – while it is generally known there are Police Officers who own more than one property and those who are involved in multiple property lets, there are also members of the judiciary, Crown Office Prosecutors and their families who own much higher value property portfolios – collectively valued in the tens of millions of pounds.

While there is some information now in the public arena in relation to the letting empires of Police Officers and some other public servants, both the judiciary and Prosecutors are currently running scared from declaring their interests and wealth, using their significant power in the justice system to block release of details of their links to business and values of assets.

Neil Richardson, who left Police Scotland after serving as the force’s number two – to previous Chief Constable Stephen House – was blocked from buying the Audi he used at the single force after an intervention by the chief constable. Richarson was informed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that he could not take the car with him into retirement.

Interests and business links of Police Scotland officers who leave the force have come under further scrutiny, where in one recent case the Sunday Herald newspaper reported a former detective who played a key role in the failed £60m Police Scotland computer project now works in IT for the Scottish Government.

Alec Hippman, who was responsible for briefing MSPs about the troubled i6 scheme, landed a role in the Scottish Government in January 2016 after leaving the single force.

And in January 2916, the Sunday Herald newspaper revealed the then Chief Constable of Police Scotland Sir Stephen House set up his own company in the final weeks of his job as Chief Constable.

House formed Sarantium Solutions Ltd in October 2015 when he was heading towards the exit door of the single force.

Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013 – Business interests:

5.—(1) A constable must not have a business interest without the consent of— (a) the Authority, in the case of a senior officer; (b) the chief constable, in the case of any other constable, provided that, in the case of any such constable in whose case the chief constable has an interest otherwise than as chief constable, the chief constable must refer the matter to the Authority for it to consider whether to consent.

(2) If a constable acquires or is likely to acquire a business interest, the constable must forthwith give written notice of that interest to the chief constable or, in the case of a senior officer, the Authority.

(3) If a constable has a business interest and is appointed to the office of chief constable, deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable, the constable must forthwith give written notice of that interest to the Authority unless the constable has previously disclosed that interest to the Authority.

(4) An individual applying for appointment to the Police Service, other than an individual referred to in paragraph (5), must give written notice to the chief constable of any business interest which that individual has or is likely to acquire after appointment.

(5) An individual applying for appointment to the office of chief constable, deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable must give written notice to the Authority of any business interest which that individual has or is likely to acquire after appointment.

(6) An individual or constable is regarded as having a business interest if— (a) that individual or constable carries on any business or holds any office or employment for hire or gain (otherwise than as a constable) in the United Kingdom; (b) that individual or constable resides at any premises where any member of that individual’s or constable’s family keeps a shop or carries on any like business in Scotland; (c) that individual or constable holds, or any member of that individual’s or constable’s family living with that individual or constable holds, any licence, certificate or permit granted in pursuance of the laws relating to liquor licensing or betting and gaming or regulation of places of public entertainment in Scotland or has any pecuniary interest in such licence, certificate or permit; or (d) that individual’s or constable’s spouse (not being separated from that individual or constable), civil partner (not being separated from that individual or constable) or cohabitant (not being separated from that individual or constable) keeps a shop or carries on any like business in Scotland.

(7) For the purposes of this regulation— (a) “member of that individual’s or constable’s family” includes parent, son, daughter, dependant, brother, sister, spouse (not being separated from that individual or constable), civil partner (not being separated from that individual or constable) or cohabitant (not being separated from that individual or constable); and (b) “cohabitant” means a member of a couple consisting of— (i) a man and a woman who are living together as if they were husband and wife; or (ii) two individuals of the same sex who are living together as if they were civil partners.

COPS DECLARE, JUDGES CONCEAL:

Members of Scotland’s judiciary continue to wage a bitter five year campaign against proposals to require members of Scotland’s judiciary to declare their interests, and links to big business.

The salary scales of officers in Police Scotland – where all officers are required to declare their interests – show a Police Scotland constable can expect £24,204 per annum going up to £83,925 for a Chief Superintendent with 3 years experience to Assistant Chief Constables: £115,000, Deputy Chief Constables: £169,600 and the Chief Constable: £212,280

However – Scotland;s judges have no such requirement to declare interests, despite their huge  judicial salaries skyrocketing from Sheriffs on £144,172 a year up to Sheriff Principals on £155,706 a year while judges of the Outer House of the Court of Session earn £179,768 a year, Inner House judges earning £204,695. The Lord Justice Clerk (currently Lady Dorrian) earns £215,695 a year, and the Lord President (currently Lord Carloway, aka Colin Sutherland) earns £222,862 a year.

The proposal to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the Sunday Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

Former SPA member Moi Ali – SPA Chair Flanagan not fit on any public board THE CHAIR of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is under pressure to resign after heavy criticism from MSPs and former SPA Board member Moi Ali – who gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) earlier this week.

Andrew Flanagan – appointed by the Scottish Government to run the accident prone Scottish Police Authority was described at the hearing on Thursday as “…not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values” .

The hard hitting criticism came from former SPA Board member Moi Ali, who was invited to appear before MSPs after Flanagan had and others from the Police Watchdog had been accused at a previous PAPLS hearing of being run – by Flanagan – as a Kremlin style “secret society”.

In an exchange between Monica Lennon MSP and the former SPA board member, Ms Lennon asked: “Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?”

In her response, Moi Ali gave a highly critical account of the SPA Chair’s position, stating : “I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.”

Sharp exchanges between members of the Public Audit Committee and remaining SPA board members continued, with Alex Neil MSP commenting a “collective amnesia” appeared to be affecting several of the remaining SPA board members – including David Hume.

Hume sat on a Governance Review of the SPA, along with a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, the Chair of the Fire Service and others. Mr Hume is the former Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council.

In 2012 it was reported David Hume took a £318,434 secret “too ill to work again” secret legal deal from the corruption ridden south of Scotland local authority.

Hume then joined the SPA while also working for the Scottish Government in a position on Children’s Hearings Scotland. Hume’s salary for the CHS work was funnelled through his consultancy company – Enlighten: David Hume Consulting Ltd.

Hume’s term as SBC Chief Executive span dark years at the local authority, financial scandals with the loss of £4million from the education budget, consistent allegations of a culture of backhanders at the council, and a lack of duty of care.

Scottish Borders Council had been caught up in the Miss X Rape scandal, resulting in a Scottish Parliament inquiry which heard the Council had covered up a years long case where a severely disabled woman who lived close to the Council’s St Boswell’s HQ was repeatedly raped and abused. It transpired Scottish Borders Council held a written admission of rape from the man a full two years before the case came to light. A man was later jailed for 10 years for the crimes.

Scottish Borders Council decided not to discipline any social worker, despite the fact that Miss X, a woman with learning disabilities, had been subjected to an appalling catalogue of violent physical and sexual abuse.

Stopping short of calling for Andrew Flanagan’s resignation, the acting Convener of the Public Audit Committee released a statement yesterday, following the release of a letter sent by the Public Audit Committee to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The letter from the committee claimed the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority – Andrew Flanagan – appears to have “behaved inappropriately”.

In the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson, the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee raised serious concerns about the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Chair Andrew Flanagan.

Within the highly critical letter, the Committee said it appeared that Mr Flanagan treated former SPA board member Moi Ali in a manner that meant she felt “obliged to resign from the board”.

The letter also highlights the need to improve diversity on the SPA board, stating that the current board is “male-dominated” and in need of significant cultural change.

Acting Convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: “The Committee considers Mr Flanagan’s behaviour to be unacceptable on occasion. We would be extremely worried if potential board members were put off from applying to the SPA board because of this.”

“Clearly, the SPA has a lot of work to do in improving transparency at the very heart of the organisation – only then will it be able to gain public confidence.”

The SPA have refused to give further comment on that already given by Andrew Flanagan during the meeting of the Public Audit Committee on 20 April, more of which can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

Given there is a public interest in the way public bodies operate in Scotland, and that it is generally accepted among the media that the way in which the SPA is acting, does reflect a level of less than satisfactory operation across other public bodies in Scotland, excerpts of the meeting are reprinted to give readers a flavour of the exchanges as they were reported in the Official report issued by the Scottish Parliament.

Video footage of the PAPLS hearing follows:

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

Former SPA Board member Moi Ali’s opening statement to the Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee is reprinted below, and is contained in the report issued by the PAPLS Committee published here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

Moi Ali: Good morning and thank you for the invitation. There is much in Andrew Flanagan’s evidence to the committee to take issue with but, even if his account is to be believed, it raises fundamental corporate governance issues. He knew my views on the governance framework but told the committee that he did not expect me to voice them in public. Should a chair suppress respectful, open debate? He wrote of the value of being seen to be a united board. Where, then, can alternative views be discussed? Can that be done only in private? That seems to me not a good option.

Andrew Flanagan told the committee that dissent is okay, but his letter to me talked about how sharing public disagreement was a resigning matter. Why should members, who have accepted collective responsibility, resign? That is not what the Government’s “On Board” guidance says. Do SPA members now feel constrained about expressing their views in public? Surely that is not good for governance.

The chair claims that his concern was that I did not communicate my intentions in advance. Should board members enter meetings with their minds made up and their position pre-shared? It is clear that doing so would turn board meetings into theatre and board members into actors. In my view, my removal from committees was a straightforward punishment for speaking out. The “On Board” guidance says that members must participate in committees and, equally, that the chair should lead by example. What kind of an example was removing me from committees?

A key question is whether Andrew Flanagan observed the nine principles of public life in Scotland, which include openness, honesty, leadership, respect and integrity. Was withholding Derek Penman’s letter from the board an act of integrity? The “On Board” guidance states:

“It is important that nothing you do or say … as a Board member tarnishes in any way the reputation of the … Board.”

Have Andrew Flanagan’s recent actions damaged the SPA? News reports some five months after the event talked of haemorrhaging confidence in the beleaguered, embattled, control-freak chair and of a Kremlin-style, crisis-hit, secret society board. None of those are my words; in fact, some of them are the committee’s words.

The chair’s style shapes board culture. Did the board ask to see the HMICS letter? Did the board ask why it had not been shared? Was there any discussion of why the chair believed that I should resign? Has any board member questioned Andrew Flanagan about his evidence to this committee? The “On Board” guidance states that board members “should not hesitate to challenge the Chair if you believe that a decision is wrong”.

Did the board members therefore believe that the decisions were right?

Before board members approved the governance framework, they were aware of key stakeholders’ concerns. First, they discussed Audit Scotland’s report, which said that SPA board and committee papers were sometimes insufficiently transparent and issued only on the day of the meeting and that some papers that were taken in private could have been heard in public. Audit Scotland questioned whether the SPA demonstrated

“high standards of corporate governance at all times including openness and transparency in decision making.”

Secondly, board members knew that the internal auditors had questioned whether the proposals complied with best practice. Thirdly, they knew that at least one local authority had raised issues and concerns. Fourthly, colleagues knew that the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, which created the SPA, says:

“The Authority must ensure that its proceedings and those of its committees and sub-committees are held in public”, and that “The Authority must try to carry out its functions in a way which is proportionate, accountable and transparent and which is consistent with any principle of good governance which appears to it to constitute best practice.”

I will summarise the position in a few points. The decision on private committees and last-minute publication of papers was contrary to statute and against the spirit of public service accountability; the board and the chief executive ignored Government guidance and stakeholders’ concerns; the chair was wrong in trying to suppress information and debate and in punishing me for taking a principled stance in public that was consistent with my well-known private view; and the board appears to have failed to challenge, given that three months after the initial decision, the board still felt no need to revise it.

Finally, the ensuing reputational damage has diminished public confidence in an important public body. Policing has to operate within the law and earn the confidence of the public, and so, too, does its oversight body.

Monica Lennon: I move on to a question for Moi Ali. Ms Ali, I have read the letter that Andrew Flanagan sent to you in December after you had raised two objections to part of the governance review. Do you think that that letter amounted to bullying?

Moi Ali: Yes, I believe that it did. A good leader, if he had any concerns, would surely speak to an individual—I think that we would all do that. It is hard to find another word to describe what a letter of that nature amounts to.

Monica Lennon: Do you feel quite sad about the experience? Do you feel that you have been driven out?

Moi Ali: Yes, I do. It has been a really horrendous experience. I am quite surprised that, five months after I received the letter, we are still talking about it. It has been a very difficult thing to live through, particularly as I have been outside all this, on my own, without access to materials. Because I was coming here today, I asked for information from the SPA—not private information, but information about meetings that I attended, information that I had previously held—and I was denied that. I have been very much pushed to the outside.

What has transpired as a result of the letter is exactly what I said would happen. I asked for a meeting with Andrew Flanagan almost immediately—on the first working day—after I received the letter, but for a variety of reasons that simply did not happen.

Monica Lennon: In a previous evidence session, I asked Andrew Flanagan whether he recognised that his conduct could be perceived as control freakery, and he did not accept that characterisation. In the time that I have been pursuing these questions, it has struck me that the SPA is very much a male-dominated organisation. Do you believe that he would have sent the same letter to a man?

Moi Ali: No, I do not think that he would. After I received it, I spoke to Iain Whyte, because he had expressed similar views to mine at the board meeting. The only difference was that he did not ask for his views to be minuted. In a way, the minuting is irrelevant because the meeting was live streamed and recorded for posterity, but he raised very similar issues. I think that his words were, “I share many of the concerns that Moi has raised.”

He pushed on the point that I pushed on about whether the proposals conformed with best practice. I asked Iain Whyte whether he had received a similar letter and he said that he had not.

Monica Lennon: Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?

Moi Ali: I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.

In sharp exchanges between PAPLS Committee member Alex Neil & those giving evidence, the report of the meeting publishes the following excerpt:

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): Mr Barbour, in your submission you said that, in relation to the selection of a new chief constable, you had written:

“My real worry is that interested parties identify a preferred candidate and try to influence the selection criteria accordingly.”

Will you be more specific about that?

Brian Barbour: It was a general fear of mine, and I was sharing my thoughts. That memo was written to the chair, who I had not yet met, on the day that I left the SPA. It was my thoughts on moving forward, including things that were good about the board and things that needed to be changed. In the memo I expressed concern that we had had regular intervention. It was a legitimate worry of mine that people might have been wanting to fit the criteria to the person, rather than the board being absolutely clear about the criteria for the right chief constable, and then going through the interview process to see who matched the criteria.

Alex Neil: Were the people you were referring to members of the board?

Brian Barbour: No, the people I was referring to were external influences outwith the board.

Alex Neil: So who are you talking about?

Brian Barbour: I am talking about people in Government, by which I mean both the political side and the official side.

Alex Neil: Were you talking about the civil service?

Brian Barbour: I was talking about the civil service and, potentially, the cabinet secretary, if he had expressed an interest. However, I was not privy to that kind of discussion.

Alex Neil: Do you have any evidence of that?

Brian Barbour: No, which is why I was expressing it as a worry. I was not saying that I had evidence to say that it was happening; I was being open with the chair and saying that it was a concern of mine.

Alex Neil: To be fair, in your submission you should have made it clear that you did not have any evidence and that it was just a feeling.

Brian Barbour: My submission has a verbatim extract from my email to the chair. It said “My real worry”, not “I have seen evidence”. I was very specific.

Alex Neil: However, worries that are publicly expressed should be evidence backed.

Brian Barbour: Indeed.

Alex Neil: Moi Ali, this morning you said that you had sought information for this meeting from the SPA that is publicly available, and you were refused that. What information was it, who refused it and why?

Moi Ali: To clarify, the information was not publicly available, but it was readily available to the SPA. In other words, it would not have been onerous for the SPA to produce it.

Alex Neil: But it was not marked “Private and confidential”.

Moi Ali: I do not know. It was information relating to private meetings, but they were meetings that I attended, so I was not asking for information that I would not have. I will give you examples: I wanted the October, November and December audit committee minutes. I also wanted the minutes of the members meetings—you have received extracts of them, but I wanted the full minutes. I wanted earlier drafts, because one had changed significantly. I had two earlier drafts, and they are very different from the one that you have.

I wanted those documents to get the complete picture. The reason that I was given for being refused them was that it was important to have a level playing field and for everybody to have the same information. I said that I understood that and was perfectly happy for everybody to have the same information.

In fact, my concern was that there was not a level playing field. My colleagues here have that information. I used to have it, because I had an SPA BlackBerry and iPad, and the information was on them. Because I no longer have them, I no longer have the information, yet my colleagues here have it. The argument about a level playing field was being used to deny me that information.

I was then told that, if my colleagues asked for it, I would be given it, but they would not ask for it because they have it. It was a catch-22 situation. As late as 6 o’clock last night, I received a further email saying that some of the information would be made available to me under a subject access request, which I have had to make, but obviously the SPA has 40 days in which to comply with that, so it is of no use to me for today’s meeting.

Alex Neil:The level playing field reason suggests that the SPA saw this as a bit of a bun fight between you and the other board members.

Moi Ali: I think that it feels that I am on the outside and therefore no longer have the same rights as my former colleagues have to information that I previously held. Regardless of whether you want to call that a bun fight or whatever, I am at a disadvantage. I have this one sheet of paper, and my colleagues have files of information.

Alex Neil: Who refused your request?

Moi Ali: The chief executive refused it.

Alex Neil: The chief executive refused it.

Moi Ali: I went via the Scottish Government, because when I asked for information on a previous occasion it was shredded after I made the request. On this occasion I went via Paul Johnston.

Alex Neil: Just stop there. Tell me about that. You made an earlier request for information—

Moi Ali: It was not to do with this committee, but on the only other occasion when I asked the SPA for information, the chief executive wrote to me—I am happy to produce the email—saying that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil: After you had made the request.

Moi Ali: After I had made the request.

Alex Neil: What was that information?

Moi Ali: I stress that this relates to the previous chair but the same chief executive. I had asked for information when the chair had said that I was a one-trick diversity pony.

Alex Neil:Was it the previous chairman who said that?

Moi Ali: Yes, it was the previous chair. He told me that it was not him saying that, but HMICS. When I said that I did not believe that that was the case or that HMICS would use that terminology and that I wanted to see the information, I was told that I could not have it. Therefore, I made a formal request.

Alex Neil:Was it written information?

Moi Ali:Yes—he had been reading from a piece of paper.

Alex Neil:Was it a minute of a meeting or something like that?

Moi Ali:It was part of the appraisal process. He read that phrase from a document. On three occasions, I asked for that information but was told that I could not have it. When I made a formal request, the chief executive wrote to me to say that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil:Who was the author of that disgusting statement?

Moi Ali:The previous chair. That was part of a whole process that has been dealt with, so I am not—

Alex Neil:How was it dealt with?

Moi Ali:I was not the only person with concerns—other board members had concerns, and the Scottish Government addressed the issue.

Alex Neil:How did the Government address it?

The Acting Convener:The chair is no longer the chair.

Moi Ali:That is right—thank you.

Alex Neil:Yes, but it was not over that issue that they are no longer the chair, was it?

Moi Ali:That was part of—

Alex Neil:It is quite serious for a chief executive of a public body to preside over such a situation. First of all, the original phraseology is clearly totally unacceptable. If you are saying that the chief executive had the information destroyed after—

Moi Ali:Sorry to interrupt, but I want to clarify that he did not destroy the information; rather, he wrote to me informing me that it had been destroyed. When I asked about who did that and when and why that had happened, I did not receive that information. I do not think that the chief executive destroyed the information. My point is that I had previously tried to get information that was important to me. Following that incident, I now knew what could happen to such information. I am happy to produce the email that said that the information had been disposed of.

Alex Neil:To be clear, are you saying that the information was destroyed after you have made the request?

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct.

Alex Neil:I think that we need to get much more information on that situation, convener, because it is totally unacceptable. Even though it is a historical event, the same chief executive is in post, and if he is prepared to do that there is something serious in the organisation—

Moi Ali:I confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, he did not shred the information.

Alex Neil:He did not do it; nevertheless, he is the accountable officer.

Moi Ali:Yes.

Alex Neil:Clearly, that should not have happened. The chief executive refused you the information for today’s meeting.

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct. I wrote to him via the Scottish Government, because it was aware of the previous issue. I spoke to Paul Johnston following the meeting here. He was aware of what had happened previously. Given what had happened before, I told him that I did not have confidence that I would be given the information that I needed. He told me that that was fine and I could make the request through him. Therefore, I wrote to him setting out the information that I required. He then made the request. Days went by and I did not receive the information. I was asking for straightforward information. I chased it up and was told that the chief executive was about to leave the office and that he would not be in on the following Monday. I said that it was urgent, because I was going to be working in London and that I needed the information to prepare. A lot of emails went to and fro.

The Scottish Government was involved—officials spoke to me and to the chief executive. They were supportive and helpful, but they were unable to secure the information that I needed. All that I have is the information that is in the public domain on this committee’s website. I do not have any of the information that I had asked for.

Alex Neil:What are the three non-executive directors going to do about this? The situation is clearly unacceptable.

George Graham:First, I reassure members and Moi Ali that I do not feel like I am in a bun fight with her. She is a former colleague and I very much respect her position—

Alex Neil:Clearly, the chief executive thinks that.

George Graham:I do not feel like I am in a bun fight. However, I do not feel that I have a host of information. I have my opening statement and that is it. Yesterday, the clerk to this committee put out a note saying, “No more information, please,” as there was so much coming in, so I suspect—

Alex Neil:Mr Graham, will you answer the question? What are you going to do about the refusal to give Moi Ali the information and about the fact that it appears that, in the previous incident, although the chief executive did not get rid of the paperwork himself, somebody in the organisation clearly did so after a request was made? That is very serious for an organisation that you have been telling us all morning is running well and is full of improvement, with everything being above board, open and transparent. It is anything but.

George Graham:I think that you made a number of assertions there that I have not made. I do not think that everything is running well and that everything is above board. I know that we can improve and get better, so please—

Alex Neil:What are you going to do about this?

George Graham:If you would let me answer, please, that would be helpful.

In relation to the information that Moi Ali asked for yesterday, all that I can do is research why the situation happened in the way that it did and see whether we can put that right. I do not know why that information was refused as I do not know enough about it, but I undertake to look into that and see.

On the historical issue that Moi Ali has raised, again, I do not know anything about that, but if she wishes to raise it again, we will of course explore it and make sure that that kind of thing does not happen. The historical situation that has been described does not reflect the way that we in the SPA would like our officials to deal with such information requests.

Alex Neil:Clearly, however, that appears to be happening. Obviously, you have to find out the other side of the story before you decide what you want to do about it, but I need a guarantee from the three non-executives that such things will not be allowed to happen with no investigation and no appropriate action, because it clearly breaches every rule and principle in the book on openness and transparency.

George Graham:I can certainly reassure you that we will explore the situation.

Iain Whyte:We will happily go back to the chief executive and question why that information has not been—

Alex Neil:Will you come back to us and tell us what is happening?

Iain Whyte:Yes, and I am sure that we can ask the chief executive to provide you with full details.

Alex Neil:Absolutely. I think that we should bring him back to the committee, actually.

Iain Whyte:My understanding is that the previous incident that Moi Ali mentioned was subject to a complaints process and that there was an outcome. I do not know whether she is content with that, but she understands the outcome. The matter was dealt with through a historical process.

The Acting Convener:I will address a comment that Mr Graham made, because I think that it is important to do so. The committee requested full minutes but we were provided with extracts. If the chief executive and his staff can take the time to extract information, they can surely take the time to provide information to others. We put a time bar on information because it is disrespectful to committee members to provide at the 11th hour bundles more information that is not urgent.

George Graham:I understand that.

The Acting Convener:Okay. Thank you.

Alex Neil:Just to add to that, convener, I ask that we get a copy of all the information that Moi Ali asked for and was refused.

I have a further question for the non-executive directors. I think that both Mr Whyte and Mr Hume have confirmed that they dissented on certain issues at the board meeting, as did Moi Ali, but that did not appear in the minutes.

David Hume:Can I clarify that? My dissent was in relation to a previous discussion about governance that took place in June 2015, and I said that at the time. I have the minute from that meeting in front of me. There were two decisions. With regard to the first decision, Brian Barbour and I are recorded as dissenting—

Alex Neil:So it is in that minute.

David Hume:—and with regard to the second decision, I am shown as dissenting. I have that here.

Alex Neil:Right. That has not been—

Iain Whyte:I clarify that I indicated that I had raised a number of questions at different points but that I did not record dissent to the decisions that were made.

The Acting Convener:We have not received any of that information. I do not doubt the veracity of what you are telling us, but the SPA chief executive has chosen not to provide us with that information. That is the only conclusion that I can draw.

Mr Penman, you wanted to come in, and then I will go back to Alex Neil.

Derek Penman:I assure you that we will request and review all the minutes—unredacted, and not extracts from them. Clearly, whether they are released publicly will be a matter for you, but we will do that. We will also include the comments that have been made today in terms of historical issues and consistency.

The Acting Convener:That is very helpful.

Alex Neil:That would be very helpful indeed. Clearly, the request was not a formal freedom of information request, but it appeared to be a reasonable request that should have been fulfilled. The behaviour in that regard is part of the problem with the culture of the organisation: it appears to be one of secrecy and non-co-operation with people, which is not acceptable.

Iain Whyte:I do not know the details of why the chief executive has put forward certain parts of minutes and not others. All that I can tell you is that some of the minutes that Moi Ali requested were from private meetings and some were from the members meetings. Among the issues that were discussed, there might be sensitive matters relating to security issues that could not be released publicly and there might also be financial and commercial discussions in there that would obviously be exempt from FOI because it would be to the detriment of the public service were they released. It may be something to do with that, but I do not know. However, I ask that the committee handle any information sensitively for those reasons.

Alex Neil:You can make a robust request and get in first before any excuses are made. As a non-executive director, your role is to challenge and be robust.

Iain Whyte:Absolutely.

Alex Neil:But it seems that you may have made your mind up already.

Iain Whyte:No. I am conscious that some of the things in those meetings may be appropriately heard in private even under FOI legislation.

The Acting Convener:I hear what you are saying but, with all due respect, we are referring to extracts that deal only with governance and nothing else. We have requested minutes and, had there been a request to redact certain things that were sensitive, I am sure that the committee would have looked at that and considered it, as appropriate. However, there is nothing like that in those minutes. The fact that your dissent and Mr Hume’s dissent are not recorded is actually not helpful to the committee’s considerations and I hope that you will take that back to the SPA.

Iain Whyte:I will clarify this yet again. I have said it twice now. The dissent that Mr Hume was talking about was recorded in a public meeting back in June 2015. I did not record dissent at any point. I have said that twice and I would like to clarify that.

The Acting Convener:Okay.

Alex Neil:We will make sure that that is in our minutes.

The Acting Convener:Carry on, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:I want to focus on the role of the non-executive directors, having been a non-executive director of a number of companies myself, which are obviously operating in the public sector. I will start with the letter from Derek Penman to the chair prior to the December board meeting. Despite the explicit request in the letter to the chair, which Mr Penman confirmed this morning was the case, that the letter be circulated to the board for the December meeting, not only was it not circulated, the chief executive was not even informed by the chair at the time of the existence of the letter, let alone of its contents. I ask you three: when did you find out about the letter and when did you get to read it? Have you read it?

David Hume:Yes. I have it in front of me.

Alex Neil:When did you get it?

David Hume:I cannot recall.

Alex Neil:Here is the collective amnesia again.

David Hume:No, it is not that.

Alex Neil:Amnesia must be contagious in the SPA.

David Hume:No, that is not the case.

Alex Neil:So, roughly when did you get the letter?

David Hume:In recent times.

Alex Neil:How recent? Was it last week or last month? Did you get it in December or January?

David Hume:I do not date stamp material that I get, but I think that I got the letter within the past month. However, as I said earlier, we had a full discussion of HMICS’s view.

Alex Neil:I have heard all that, and my question is not about that. Can Mr Graham and Mr Whyte tell me when they got a copy of the letter and whether they have read it?

George Graham:Yes, I have now read the letter, the full detail of which was apparent to me about two or three weeks ago.

Iain Whyte:It is exactly the same for me. I have a copy of it with me, but I had not seen it until the issue arose at this committee.

Alex Neil:My next question is the obvious one. You are non-executive directors. Part of your function is to make sure that the board is above board and transparent. That is all in your remit and in the nine principles that were referred to earlier. When did you ask the chair why you had not received a copy of the letter from the inspector, who had specifically requested that you all get a copy before the December meeting? When did you take the chair to task for not circulating that letter?

David Hume:Before we answer that, I want to bring us back to the HMICS letter. As I have just confirmed with the chief inspector, who is sitting next to me, the letter says:

“I accept that it will properly be a matter for the Board to approve the Corporate Governance Framework and my comments are intended solely to inform members ahead of their decision next week.”

Alex Neil:Absolutely.

David Hume:I think that, on the basis of conversations that I had had with Derek Penman, and conversations with both Moi Ali and George Graham, I went into that meeting fully aware of the views of HMICS.

Alex Neil:But that is not the point, Mr Hume. The point is that the chief inspector asked the chair to circulate the letter to every board member, which should have been done. If I had been a non-executive director and had found out much later that I had not received that letter but got it only by accident because the chair got a roasting at this committee, I would have been on to the chair to demand that future letters like that, in which there is clearly interest and there is a request for it to be circulated to the board, would be circulated.

David Hume:Indeed. Absolutely.

Alex Neil:If you are not prepared to do that, you are not fit to be a non-executive director. You are there to hold the chair, among others, to account.

David Hume:We are quite aware of that. The letter—

Alex Neil:You do not seem to be. You are making excuses for him.

David Hume:No.

Alex Neil:Why have you not complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated, as requested by the inspector? One of the things that were announced in the letter was the new review and inspection by the inspector.

David Hume:Indeed.

Alex Neil:You did not actually know that, formally.

David Hume:I did.

Alex Neil:No—you did not, formally.

David Hume:Well, he told me.

Alex Neil:No—he did not tell you formally; it has to go to the board. If that is the level of scrutiny that you are exercising as a non-executive director, I find it wholly inadequate. You are supposed to hold the chair to account. If the chair has not circulated a letter from the inspector, who has specifically asked that the board see it, irrespective of whether you already knew the information, perhaps not every other board member knew all of it. The point is that, if the inspector wanted it to be circulated, surely it should have been circulated. Surely, as a former inspector, Mr Graham, you would have expected that to happen.

George Graham:Yes. You have made a number of assertions. There is a fair bit of relationship informality that definitely happens but, with hindsight—and I am sure that the chair will have reflected on this since the committee meeting with him a fortnight or so ago that you described—I certainly would have appreciated seeing the detail of that letter.

Alex Neil:Have you now made it clear to the chair that you do not expect a repeat of that in future?

George Graham:I have not had that conversation.

Alex Neil:Is it not time that you did?

George Graham:It may well be.

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:I think that the most important—

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:You can keep asking me that question—

Alex Neil:Well, are you going to?

George Graham:—but I would like to give you a full answer, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:Yes or no—are you going to tell the chair that you do not want it to happen again?

George Graham:I have great respect for how the chair is managing business. I certainly do not want a whole host of issues to come up. I would have a discussion with him in which I say that it would have been useful to see a letter that specifically says that it should be sent to the board. So my answer is yes.

Alex Neil:Mr Whyte?

Iain Whyte:Which bit would you like me to answer?

Alex Neil:Have you complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated as requested?

Iain Whyte:No—I have not complained to the chair.

Alex Neil:Why not?

Iain Whyte:Like others here, I was fully aware of the views of HMICS, so, in a sense, they had already been factored into the decision making that we had.

Alex Neil:Poor.

Derek Penman:If I may add to that, although I had conversations with all the members of the board and they would have been clear on my intention and my views, the letter, which I think extends to three pages, went into some nuance and detail around that.

Alex Neil:Exactly.

Derek Penman:There were things in there that I know that I would not have discussed with members. Without wanting to be objectionable about it, the letter contained a level of detail that I would not have had the opportunity to explain in conversations on the margins with members.

My other point is to clarify our position and to correct the evidence. When I sent the letter to the SPA, which was on 9 December, it was copied to the chief executive.

Alex Neil:He told this committee that he had not seen it.

Derek Penman:I am offering to correct that evidence, in terms of our recollection of the—

Alex Neil:Having heard what the chief inspector has just said, are you now prepared to go to the chair and say that this is totally unacceptable?

George Graham:I have always been prepared to have that discussion. The chair himself will reflect on exactly the information that he discussed with you a fortnight or so ago.

Alex Neil:You are not leaving us with a lot of confidence that you are doing the proper job of a non-executive director, I have to say.

George Graham: Can I just come back on that? It is wonderful that you can make such assertions, but there are an awful lot of really good things that we do as a body.

Alex Neil: I have no doubt.

George Graham: The focus on one singular point of failure, if you want to call it that—the failure to circulate a letter, which was a deliberate judgment on someone’s behalf—and then to describe the board as inadequate is a poor characterisation of what we are doing. I certainly feel quite passionate about policing. I am in this for only one purpose—to help the Police Service of Scotland deliver the very best it can for communities—so to come in here and hear you assert that, because of one particular issue, we are inadequate as a board is unfair.

Alex Neil: Just a minute. You are being paid as a non-executive director. You are getting paid by the public as a non-executive director, and—

George Graham: I am quite simply—

Alex Neil: Let me finish. You are not doing the job.

George Graham: I am simply disagreeing—

The Acting Convener: Mr Graham—

George Graham: I am quite simply disagreeing with your assertion, and I am entitled to do that.

The Acting Convener: We are not going to get very far collectively this morning if we shout at one another, and if you talk over me again, Mr Graham, your microphone will be cut off. Equally, I would say to members that there are passions round the table, but let us try to lower the temperature. Nevertheless, we will still be seeking answers and we will be robust in our scrutiny, and nothing will stop the committee doing that.

Alex Neil: I just want to make the point that it is not a one-off. Ever since the board was set up, there have been problems, time after time after time. What the chief inspector has just said must be taken very seriously by every member of the board. I absolutely appreciate Mr Graham’s former service and the fact that he is committed to the future of the police service, and he has a good track record of serving the nation and the police. However, in your new role as a non-executive director, Mr Graham, part of your function is to ensure that the board is operating efficiently and transparently, holding the chair, the chief constable and others to account, and the point that I am making is that, on the fundamental issue of governance and the governance review, that has not happened. In that respect—and my comments are solely in that respect—the non-executive members of the board have not fulfilled their function with the robustness that is needed. They must be able to say to the chair, “Don’t do that again.”

I am not asking for the chair’s resignation, or for anyone’s resignation, because we all have to learn lessons. As you said yourself, Mr Graham, you are new to the role of non-executive director. We are paying non-executive directors to hold people to account. On this occasion it is clear, especially in light of the chief inspector’s comments, that that did not happen. Your job now is to ensure that there is no repeat of that, and that in future people are held to account. That is the point that I am making. I am not trying in any way to deride your service or anyone else’s service. Like you, I want to see an efficient Scottish Police Authority holding people to account, and that includes internal account. You have heard this morning about people being denied information, and you have heard loads of other stories as well. As everybody agrees, there is clearly still a lot more to do to get the Scottish Police Authority into the position that it needs to be in to gain the confidence of the Parliament and of the Scottish people.

George Graham: Thank you, Mr Neil, for those comments. I respect your position on the issue and I accept it. As you point out, and as I accept myself, I am still very much learning in my endeavours. There are a number of tangible examples of areas where we have engaged in effective scrutiny, so I would not like the committee to have the impression, just because of that one single issue, that that is how we behaved at all times. Finally, I want to say that a number of staff in the SPA, who have been through a fairly turbulent three or four years, work incredibly hard to support us as non-executive directors. They do an awful lot of good work and sometimes the stories that are published affect how they feel about their work. That is not the fault of the committee, because I respect the fact that it is your job to scrutinise what we do. I just want to put on the record my appreciation for how they support us, and I emphasise that we are still learning.

Alex Neil: I think that we would endorse that appreciation.

I fully understand that there have been some details and issues between the chair of the SPA and Moi Ali that you, as a non-executive director, could not get involved in but, given the damage to the perception of the SPA that was done by the way in which Moi Ali’s departure from the board was forced—not just handled but forced—I would have thought, without necessarily taking sides, that there was a legitimate case for the non-executive directors, with their remit, to raise at the board meeting the question of how that had been handled. Irrespective of who was right and who was wrong, there is no doubt that, over a period of months, that has done significant damage to the perception and the reputation of the Scottish Police Authority. I am trying to be positive. You need to be more robust in such situations, raise such things with the chair, and get them sorted before they become a public relations disaster for the Scottish Police Authority, which what we are talking about has been.

The full transcript of the hearing can be viewed here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

The previous session of the PAPLS investigation of the Scottish Police Authority can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

Former SPA Board member & crusading JCR Moi Ali. A FORMER Board member of the Scottish Police Authority SPA) – who resigned after raising concerns over a lack of transparency at the Police watchdog – has been invited to give evidence to MSPs investigating secrecy and a lack of accountability at the Police supervisory body.

The decision by the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee of the Scottish Parliament to invite former SPA Board member Moi Ali to give evidence – came after a meeting on Thursday, where bosses at the Scottish Police Authority faced tough questions from MSPs on secrecy, alleged cover-ups and the “appalling” treatment of critics.

During the stormy evidence session with MSPs, Andrew Flanagan, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority was forced to admit he withheld a letter from colleagues which criticised plans to hold board committee meetings in private, leading to accusations the chairman was treating other board members “like infants”.

In animated exchanges during the meeting held on Thursday last week, Former Cabinet Minister & Committee member Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) told SPA Chairman Andrew Flanagan he was running a “secret society”.

Mr Neil said: “This is not the Kremlin you are running, it is supposed to be an open public body. We have this secret society … inside the board … deciding on transparency of governance and the whole thing is done without public knowledge, without people out there being able to hold this board to account.”

Replying to Alex Neil on the matter of not sharing the letter, Mr Flanagan said “I didn’t think it was necessary to circulate the letter itself.”

However – Mr Neil told Mr Flanagan he had breached “every rule in the book” by refusing to share the document with the rest of the SPA Board.

Alex Neil went on to describe the Scottish Police Authority as “a shambles”.

Scottish Police Authority – Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 20th April 2017

The full transcript of the meeting has now been published, available here: Official Report: Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee 20 April 2017

A revealing sample of the Official Report, where Committee member Alex Neil MSP questions witnesses from the Scottish Police Authority & Scottish Government follows:

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): I want to address the issue of the letter dated 9 December 2016 from Derek Penman, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary, to Andrew Flanagan,chair of the board, in which Mr Penman makes a number of substantive points about the governance of the SPA. When was the letter dated 9 December circulated to the board?

Andrew Flanagan (Scottish Police Authority): I do not think that it has been circulated to the board.

Alex Neil: It has not been circulated to the board. The letter is from the chief inspector of constabulary about the governance of the SPA, in which he makes substantial points. He specifically says: “I accept that it will properly be a matter for the Board to approve the Corporate Governance Framework and my comments are intended solely to inform members ahead of their decision next week”, which was five days after the letter was sent. Why was the letter not circulated to the board?

Andrew Flanagan: That was because the issues themselves had been well trailed and were well known. Derek Penman’s position on those matters had been expressed to members of the board and so was known. Therefore, I did not think it necessary to circulate the letter itself.

Alex Neil: It is not within your remit to make a decision like that. Under the guidelines and under statute, every board member is entitled to know what the chief inspector of constabulary says. Those were substantive points that, in many respects, were very critical of the governance review. Surely to goodness the letter should have gone to every board member before the meeting in December.

Andrew Flanagan: As I have said, the board members were already aware of the comments that Derek Penman expressed. That had been discussed at our meeting on 5 December and a number of the matters had been covered at that point.

Alex Neil: I find that very unacceptable indeed. It breaches every rule in the book about the role of a chair, particularly of a public organisation, and about the issuance of letters to board members. Every board member should have had a copy of that letter and it should have been discussed at that board meeting in December. You are not running the Kremlin; the SPA is supposed to be an open public body in which you are accountable to the board members. The view of the chief inspector, who has statutory responsibility for such matters, as it was set out in that letter, should clearly have been sent to every board member.

Andrew Flanagan: The letter was addressed to me and I believed that the matters had already been covered by the board and that members were aware of them.

Alex Neil: It was addressed to you, but Mr Penman said clearly that he wanted the letter to go to every board member. He specifically said that the letter was to inform board members at their meeting next week before they reached any decisions, but you took a unilateral decision not to circulate that to board members.

Andrew Flanagan: Yes, I did. As I said, the contents of it were well known to board members.

Alex Neil: That is not the point. The letter should have been circulated. Mr Foley, did you know that it was not being circulated to board members? Did you see the letter?

John Foley (Scottish Police Authority): I do not recall seeing it at that particular point in time.

Alex Neil: So the chief executive did not see the letter either.

John Foley: I may have seen it, but I do not recall it.

Alex Neil: You may have seen it. It is a very important letter from the chief inspector of constabulary. Either you saw the letter before the meeting or you did not. Yes or no, did you see the letter before the board meeting?

John Foley: I am telling you that I do not recall seeing it. I recall having conversations with Mr Penman around that time and him expressing his views to me clearly. Having seen the letter and read it in recent days, I find that it is in accord with a conversation that I had at the time, in which Mr Penman expressed his views.

Alex Neil: So you have seen the letter only in recent days.

John Foley: No, I do not recall seeing it at that point in time, but I might have seen it. A large number of letters come through my office. I just do not recall seeing that one.

Alex Neil: To be honest, given the three years of failure at the SPA, I find it hard to believe that its chief executive does not recall seeing a letter of that importance and with those contents. You do not recall whether you saw it. You are the chief executive and the accountable officer.

John Foley: Mr Neil, I cannot tell you that I did if I do not recall it, and I do not recall it.

Alex Neil: Presumably, every time that you receive a letter, it is date stamped. Is that correct?

John Foley: They usually come in via email. That letter is not addressed to me. I am saying that I might have seen a copy of it. It might have been sent to me; I do not know. I do not recall it, but I did not see an original letter that came in at that time, addressed to the chair.

Alex Neil: Right, so the chief executive did not see the letter—or does not recall doing so. Mr Johnston, when did you become aware of the letter?

Paul Johnston (Scottish Government): I cannot give a specific date when I was aware of the letter. I have discussions with Derek Penman, as chief inspector of constabulary, and I have certainly been aware of some of the concerns that he has had and of the issues that he has raised with the SPA. Indeed, he will shortly undertake a full inspection that will cover those matters. Don McGillivray might wish to say more about the sequencing of when the Scottish Government received particular pieces of documentation.

Don McGillivray (Scottish Government): I saw the letter at the time. The Scottish Government received it at the time, as a courtesy side copy, in hard copy from Derek Penman, on an informal basis. It was passed to me very informally, as a hard copy.

Alex Neil: We learned from this morning’s Herald that the Scottish Government gets a copy of all the board papers before each board meeting. Is that correct?

Don McGillivray: Generally, yes.

Alex Neil: Generally. So you would have picked up that the letter was not in the board papers.

Don McGillivray: Yes, we would have been aware of that at the time.

Alex Neil: Did you mention it to Mr Foley or Mr Flanagan? The letter was clearly intended for every SPA board member. Did you draw to their attention the fact that it had not been circulated?

Don McGillivray: I think that we would have regarded that as a matter for the chair to decide on.

Alex Neil: You would have regarded that as a matter for the chair.

Don McGillivray: Yes.

Alex Neil: The SPA was under attack, as it has been—rightly—for the past three years for incompetence after incompetence, including, it would appear, trying to cover up forcing a board member to resign, and yet you did not think that it was important that the letter from the chief inspector had not been circulated to board members.

Don McGillivray: I am clear that the decision on which papers go to the SPA board is for the chair to make.

Alex Neil: Yes, the decision is for the chair. However, in your role as head of police in the Scottish Government, did you not draw attention to the fact that the letter had not been circulated? The letter clearly states that it should go to board members. You knew that it had not gone to board members, because you get the board papers but, despite the importance of the contents, you did not speak to Mr Flanagan or Mr Foley and say, “Would it not be wise to make sure this letter goes to board members?”

Don McGillivray: Again, I would not have seen that as the role of Government. At the time, I would have seen that as the role of the chair.

Alex Neil: Why, then, do you get the board papers?

Don McGillivray: We get the board papers primarily for information. It is simply to make the Government aware of issues that are coming up at the board.

Alex Neil: And you never comment to the board, the chair or the chief executive on the board papers before they go to the board.

Don McGillivray: We occasionally make comments on the papers, but that is usually on matters of factual accuracy more than anything else.

Alex Neil: Nobody in the civil service thought that, given the controversies, it might be a good thing for the chief inspector’s letter to go to board members. Nobody thought to mention it.

Don McGillivray: Again, I would see a difference in the functions of the Government and the SPA in that respect. I am pretty clear that, under the governance framework that exists between the Government and the SPA, it is for the chair and the chief executive to decide on what papers go to the board.

Alex Neil: It is very clear in the rules, however, that a letter such as the one from Mr Penman has to go to board members specifically. The chief inspector asked for it to go to board members, but nobody thought to make sure that the rules were kept to.

For more on Alex Neil’s questions to witnesses from the Scottish Police Authority and Scottish Government, see the full transcript: Official Report: Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee 20 April 2017

As the meeting went on, Public Audit Committee members also criticised SPA Boss Andrew Flanagan – over the treatment of former SPA Board member Moi Ali – who raised concerns about a lack of transparency at the Police Authority during a public meeting.

Flanagan then wrote to Moi Ali – expressing his “dismay” over her public objections to holding more meetings in private.

The SPA Boss commented in the letter that she would not be able to participate in key committees as a result.

Ms Ali complained of attempts to silence her – after she warned that public meetings held by the SPA would end up as a piece of theatre.

Ms Ali said such meetings would be a “theatrical playing-out of decisions” that had been reached in private meetings.

In late February of this year, Moi Ali resigned from her position on the board of the Scottish Police authority.

The Sunday Herald newspaper reported Moi Ali’s resignation, stating: “A Scottish Police Authority board member has resigned after believing she was punished for raising concerns about transparency at the watchdog. Moi Ali was informed by SPA chair Andrew Flanagan that it would not be fair for her to participate on the body’s committees after she objected to plans to hold meetings in private. Speaking exclusively to the Herald, she said: “I’m resigning because I don’t think that it is right for anybody to try to silence board members from expressing their views in public.”

As Thursday’s meeting went on, SPA Chief Andrew Flanagan was asked whether he had considered resigning, Mr Flanagan said he had not.

He added: “I think we are becoming more effective, I think it is important that we recognise that there is already a significant degree of openness through public board meetings that we have.”

The Scottish government has also been accused of political interference in the SPA – after it became known Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government’s Justice Department received board papers including private documents before meetings took place or material was circulated to board members.

During the Committee meeting on Thursday, Mr Don McGillivray –  a civil servant based at the Police Division of the Justice Department – admitted that the government “occasionally” made comments about reports before publication.

Moi Ali and other former board members of the Scottish Police Authority have been invited to give evidence at a future date to be arranged by the Public Audit & Post Legislative Committee.

Moi Ali – Transparency comes first.

Moi Ali – well known for her previous role as Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – is a well established champion of transparency in legal and justice related bodies from the judiciary down.

As JCR, Ms Ali gave backing to the widely supported proposal to create a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary: Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Moi Ali evidence Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament

 

Serving as Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Moi Ali appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013.

Ms Ali gave a full account of her role as Judicial investigator to MSPs, and went on to describe oversight of Scottish judges as “Window Dressing”.

At the hearing, Ms Ali also backed proposals before the Scottish Parliament calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

The full transcript of evidence from Moi Ali during her appointment as Judicial Complaints Reviewer can be found here: Evidence from Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali to Public Petitions Committee on Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary,

The proposal to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

During her three year term as Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Moi Ali published three hard hitting reports on the lack of transparency and accountability in Scotland’s judiciary:

Judicial Complaints Reviewer Scotland Annual Report 2011-2012,

Judicial Complaints Reviewer Scotland Annual Report 2012-2013

Judicial Complaints Reviewer Scotland Annual Report 2013-2014

Further coverage of Moi Ali’s time as Judicial Complaints Reviewer along with reports of her support for transparency and accountability in the justice system can be found here: Moi Ali – Transparency and accountability for Scotland’s judiciary

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CROWN CORRUPTED: More corrupt Prosecutors revealed – New Lord Advocate clamps down on transparency amid call to release more details of criminal records of Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service staff

Media investigation exposes criminal records of Scots Prosecutors. AMID THE charm offensive around the appointment of James Wolffe QC to the position of Lord Advocate – the centuries old position in charge of what is now the £112m a year Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – it has emerged transparency has been given the axe after the Crown Office refused to release further details of serous criminal offences committed by COPFS staff and prosecutors.

Among the criminal charges against Scots Prosecutors – revealed earlier  this year in a media investigation– are charges relating to misuse of drugs – thought to relate to the use of, or potential dealing of Class A substances such as cocaine, assaults against Police Officers, threats, perverting the course of justice, and breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

Journalists again approached the Crown Office again for information relating to specific charges against COPFS staff including those relating to Misuse of drugs offences, what kind or type of drugs related to the charges, and information contained in what specific charges were made against COPFS staff in relation to “offences against the police”.

However, the Crown Office refused to release any further details of the criminal offences committed by their own team –  on the basis disclosure of the information may lead to the identification of those found guilty of serious criminal offences.

The shocking move by the Crown Office under the charge of newly fast-tracked QC & Solicitor General Allison Di Rollo, and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC – comes as figures emerge of even more criminal convictions of Crown Office Prosecutors and staff.

In addition to 15 cases of criminal charges raised against Prosecutors & COPFS staff already revealed in an investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper in March 2016, the Crown Office have now been forced to admit a further 15 cases of criminal charges against their own team – between 2010 and 2013.

And, only 4 out of the 15 cases of newly revealed criminal charges against Crown Office employees & Prosecutors were taken to court.

In the new data released by the Crown Office in response to a Freedom of Information request, COPFS disclosed:

Between January 2010 and November 2013, we retain records showing 15 cases reported to COPFS containing allegations of criminal offences by COPFS staff. Court proceedings were taken in four of those cases, eight cases were dealt with by non- court disposal and no proceedings were taken in three cases.

The charges brought against staff include assault; road traffic offences; breach of the peace and computer misuse.

Guilty verdicts were recorded in the four cases where court proceedings were raised.

The new information comes after COPFS previously admitted it retained records from November 2013 to November 2015 showing 15 cases reported to COPFS containing allegations of criminal offences by COPFS staff.

Court proceedings were taken in 11 cases, three cases were disposed of by non-court disposal and no proceedings were taken in one case.

The charges brought against staff include assault and vandalism; road traffic offences; threatening and abusive conduct; breach of the peace; Misuse of drugs/offences against the police; data protection offences/attempt to pervert the course of justice.

In the 11 cases where court proceedings were raised, these were concluded as follows: Guilty plea accepted (4); accused found guilty after trial (1); case marked for no further action (1); court proceedings active (4).

And – the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) – who was asked to review the Crown Office refusal to disclose further details – said it could not become involved in the investigation, citing rules which allow the Lord Advocate to deem secret any information or data he so choses.

The SIC said it could not act because “Section 48 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 states that no application may be made to the Commissioner following on from such a request for review where information held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. This includes any information held by the Crown Office in connection with the investigation and/or prosecution of crime, or the investigation of sudden deaths and/or fatal accidents.

It has now been suggested internal COPFS processes governing which staff are assigned to cases have broke down on many occasions, resulting in Crown Office employees with criminal records working on key prosecution cases – some of which suspiciously collapsed.

A legal insider has backed up the notion certain high profile criminal cases and prosecutions resulting in significantly less sentences, and plea deals – instead of big time hits against well known crime figures – may have been affected by defence teams ‘familiarity’ with certain Crown Agents and staff

Speaking to Diary of Injustice earlier this week, a leading Criminal Defence solicitor suggested it may now be worth asking Procurators Fiscal to declare – in court- any criminal charges or convictions before they proceed to represent the Crown in a prosecution.

The solicitor said: “If my client is being prosecuted for a particular type of criminal offence, I believe it is in the interests of justice for the court to be made aware the Procurator Fiscal may have a criminal conviction for the same, or a potentially more serious offence.”

In certain cases, prosecutions may well have been compromised after Crown Office personnel leaked information to criminals – as occurred in one case (among others) where a COPFS employee was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act and passing details to known crooks.

The revelations of Crown Office informants handing over key files and tips on COPFS investigations to crooks are a considerable blow to law enforcement organisations such as Police Scotland and international law enforcement organisations from other countries – who share evidence with the Crown Office in the hopes of putting away criminals, drug dealers and gangsters.

PROSECUTORS CRIMINAL RECORDS REVEALED:

Crooks among Them – Prosecutors own crime gang revealed. The only case where a COPFS employee was found guilty after trial relates to that of Iain Sawers, 27, from Edinburgh, who was found guilty of passing information to the criminal fraternity – during a seven-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in September 2014.

A jury found Sawers guilty on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, the Official Secrets Act and nine under the Data Protection Act.

Sawers joined the Productions Office of the Procurator Fiscal Service in Chambers Street in the city in 2008.

His induction covered security of information and the warning that any breach could lead to disciplinary proceedings. He was also told, under the Official Secrets Act, the unauthorised disclosure of documents was an offence.

The offences by Sawers came to light when police began an investigation into the case of 27-year old Calum Stewart on charges of breach of bail and attempting to pervert the course of justice by threatening his ex-partner, Kelli Anne Smillie, if she gave evidence in a trial in July, 2013.

Stewart paid for her and her mother to leave the country and go on holiday to Benidorm on the week of the trial.

The police investigations led them to a number of phone calls and text messages between Stewart and Sawers between 24 and 29 January 2014.

These led to Stewart phoning Kelli Anne threatening her and her mother. They were to be witnesses in the outstanding trial which has since been deserted by the Crown.

The police also recovered Sawers’ iPhone. Although many messages had been deleted, forensic experts were able to recover them and the telephone numbers of the senders and receiver. They showed that between April 2008 and January 2014, Sawers had passed on information to other people on nine occasions.

A check on the productions office computer showed shortly after receiving a call, Sawers’ secret personal user number was used to access the information.

The jury also found Stewart guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and breach of bail. Neither men gave evidence during the trial – much to the relief of the Lord Advocate.

The Crown Office also admitted 40 staff  had been subject to disciplinary action, been suspended, dismissed or have been moved to other duties as a result of disciplinary action between January 2013 to late last year and  that 14 of those staff members were suspended in the period requested. The reasons for suspension included allegations related to potential criminal activity and/or charged by Police; and breach of trust.

Of the 40 members of staff who were suspended, 10 were dismissed from the Crown Office.

However officials refused to identify the reasons for their dismissal, insisting they wished to protect the identities of their colleagues and nature of the sackings.

A legal insider has since indicated former Crown Office staff including some of those who were sacked for disciplinary offences or had left COPFS in relation to allegations of criminal conduct or criminal charges – are back working with private law firms and public bodies with links to the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Sun newspaper reported further, here:

Crooks of the Crown: 15 legal staff on charges

EXCLUSIVE by RUSSELL FINDLAY 7 Mar 2016

COPS charged 15 Crown Office workers with crimes including drugs, police assault and perverting the course of justice.

Violence, vandalism, threats and data breaches were also among the alleged offences.

And 11 of those cases reported over the last two years went to court.

A source said: “The nature of the criminal charges are very serious.

“The Crown Office should be beyond reproach as it’s responsible for highly sensitive information about the most serious crimes and sudden deaths.”

Four of the 11 employees taken to court pleaded guilty, one case was dropped, four are ongoing and the outcome of one is unknown.

It’s thought Edinburgh procurator fiscal’s office worker Iain Sawers, 26, is the only one found guilty.

He was jailed for 18 months in 2014 for attempting to pervert the course of justice by leaking details of cases.

The information about staff charges from the two years to November 2015 was unearthed using freedom of information laws.

Similar data on police officers accused of crimes is published by the Scottish Police Authority.

Last night, Scottish Tory justice spokesman Margaret Mitchell said: “The Crown Office should be no different from Police Scotland in that they should routinely publish this information.”

The Crown Office is Scotland’s prosecution agency headed by the country’s most senior law officer Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland.

A spokesman said: “We employ more than 1,600 staff, the overwhelming majority of whom uphold our high standards of professionalism. Any breach of rules is dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”

For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland’s Crown Office – in Crown detail

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

NEW CHEATS FOR THE DOCK: Six lawyers probed by Police for legal aid fraud – as investigation uncovers banned legal aid solicitors raking in profits via law firms referral fees scam

Police & Prosecutors investigate lawyers for legal aid fraud. THE Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) has confirmed a number of solicitors are currently under investigation by Police Scotland for alleged legal aid fraud.

The admission by Legal Aid chiefs – via Freedom of Information legislation – comes after journalists received tip offs relating to “high value” long term investigations involving a number of law firms and solicitors chiefly in the west of Scotland.

And, all the solicitors who are under investigation by Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – are still working for law firms who are able to claim more public cash – despite substantive allegations they cheated taxpayers.

Information provided by SLAB in response to a Freedom of Information request reveals:

The first was on an employee of a firm of solicitors and the estimated value of the alleged irregularities was £1,065.55 and as outlined above the matter is with Police Scotland.

The second was in respect of six solicitors. The estimated value of the alleged irregularities is yet to be determined as again, a Police investigation remains on-going.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board also confirmed fourteen applicants for legal aid had been referred to the Crown Office.

In respect of claimants (legal aid applicants) the information requested is as follows:

There were 14 legal aid applicants referred to COPFS to consider prosecution with the estimated value of the alleged irregularities being £78,854.52 with £5,994.92 having been recovered.

One case was referred as an attempted fraud with an estimated value of the irregularity being £2,800 which is not recoverable.

COPFS have closed two cases; one by way of a Fiscal warning with the other having no proceedings being taken against them. The remaining 12 cases continue to be considered or progressed.

However, since SLAB confirmed the Police probes – information has come to light a number of solicitors who are now banned from the Legal Aid register and some  who have ‘voluntarily’ withdrawn after headline SLAB investigations – are still profiteering from legal aid cash.

The claims come as Scotland’s legal profession – led by the Law Society of Scotland – plot a strategy to resist ex Finance Secretary John Swinney’s announced cuts to the Legal Aid budget – which has soared to over £150 million a year – resulting in Scottish lawyers handed over £1.2 billion of public cash since the financial crash of 2008.

Enquiries by the media have also uncovered a new type of legal aid scam – whereby lawyers who currently cannot claim legal aid due to previous instances of defrauding the public purse – are now receiving hefty payments in the form of large referral fees from other local law firms they pass on civil & criminal clients.

The law firms who gain extra legal aid business from former legal aid solicitors – are suspected of inflating their own legal aid claims to cover referral fees paid to the referring solicitor.

One client – who did not wish to be identified – told journalists how his solicitor – already named in the media in relation to legal aid irregularities – passed on a civil damages claim against a West of Scotland local authority to another firm of solicitors in the same area.

The client later became aware an arrangement had been made by the second law firm for referral fees to be provided to the original solicitor.

The claimant was told if any problem arose or he was asked questions, he was to reply by stating his original solicitor was kept on in the case as his office was closer in terms of accessibility.

The client – who’s claim is being funded by civil legal aid – told journalists he was asked to go to three consultations with his original solicitor – all of which were suddenly cancelled at the last minute.

However, the client was asked to go to his new legal representatives for a consultation where his second lawyer claimed ‘valuable information had been learned from the consultations’ – which never took place.

Material which has emerged in relation to this case suggests the non-existent consultations – have since been charged up to legal aid.

A number of similar cases have since been identified involving the same solicitor who is now ‘de-registered’ from the Legal Aid register – potentially costing taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds in inflated legal aid claims designed to channel payments back from law firms still on the legal aid register – to the referring solicitor.

Most of the cases so far uncovered appear to involve small to medium sized civil claims against housing agencies, public bodies including health, local authorities and some private businesses.

Speaking to journalists, an individual who formerly specialised in complex financial investigations of law firms said the scale of fraud involving inflated legal aid claims being used to provide referral fees to de-registered and ‘non legal aid solicitors’ “is substantial” and “difficult to get to grips with”.

The individual also gave an account of a case where he alleged financial documents had been removed – under audit powers – from a law firm currently implicated in a multi million pound mortgage fraud racket – to shield a well known solicitor who formerly held high office at the Law Society of Scotland.

It is unknown if the Crown Office or Police Scotland have requested sight of the material from the legal profession’s regulator.

LAWYERS AVOID LEGAL AID RAPS:

A previous investigation by DOI into the lack of prosecutions by the Crown Office revealed fourteen cases were sent to prosecutors, with not one case going to court.

One solicitor even registered a plea of “insanity” to avoid being prosecuted for legal aid fraud.

Since the start of 2005, SLAB has submitted nine reports to Crown Office alleging criminal offences by a total of thirteen solicitors. One report related to a firm of five solicitors;

The allegations relating to eleven of these solicitors were marked for no action on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence. This related to seven separate reports (for which Crown Counsel’s Instructions were obtained in three)

A report relating to one of the eleven solicitors referred to above was referred to the Civil Recovery Unit for their consideration;

One solicitor died before criminal proceedings were commenced;

One solicitor was placed on indictment for Sheriff and Jury proceedings for fraud. That solicitor entered a preliminary plea in bar of trial on the grounds of insanity which was sustained by the Court.  In light of that decision, the case was deserted pro loco et tempore; and

In relation to the final solicitor, the matter remains under consideration.

Further reporting on the lack of prosecutions was reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper and by DOI can be found here: FOURTEEN lawyers accused of multi-million pound legal aid fraud escape justice as Scotland’s Crown Office fail to prosecute all cases in 5 years

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CRIME SECRET: Crown Office flouting of Freedom of Information laws results in intervention by Information Commissioner – as Police, Prosecutors & Scottish Ministers obstruct public interest disclosures

Crown Office investigated over disclosure delays. PROSECUTORS based at the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Edinburgh have become so resistant to Freedom of Information legislation – officials at the £110m a year public body have in some cases, taken up to six months to reply to Freedom of Information requests.

Details of the delays – which some contend were deliberate – came to light in documents disclosed by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) – Rosemary Agnew – who has been forced to conduct a number of ‘interventions’ with public bodies across Scotland after serious failures in adherence to Freedom of Information legislation came to light.

Details released by the SIC – Public bodies subject to interventions by Information Commissioner – reveal in one of the ten interventions conducted by the SIC since September 2015 – the Crown Office was investigated for multiple and lengthy delays of many months per request in responding to Freedom of Information requests.

The secretive, almost unaccountable public body currently run by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland – which manages criminal prosecutions across Scotland is now subject to monthly monitoring as a result of the SIC’s investigations and meetings between senior staff from the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office and the Crown Office.

A document obtained from the SIC states: “Head of Enforcement (HOE) and Deputy Head of Enforcement (DHOE) met with COPFS 8/1/16 to highlight issues. Agreed to meet in 07/16 to discuss progress. HOE also reviewing COPFS procedures. COPFS subject to monthly performance monitoring.”

Allegations have since been raised by journalists a deliberate policy of delay was being orchestrated by COPFS staff in relation to FOI requests

And, in a sinister move by prosecutors – a number of enquiries to the Crown Office in relation to requests for media statements on activities including large fraud investigations involving individuals and accused persons known to have links to Crown Office personnel – have resulted in reporters being denied media quotes and told to turn their communications into FOI requests.

Monitoring of how the Crown Office complies with FOI legislation comes at an unwelcome time for prosecutors, after it was revealed Crown Office staff & prosecutors have been charged with serious criminal offences, reported here:  CROWN CROOKED: Crown Office crime files reveal Scotland’s Prosecutors & staff charged with Drugs crimes, Police assault, threats & perverting the course of justice.

A number of other public bodies are named in the documents including, Police Scotland, Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Scotland Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority & Falkirk Council.

In the data release it is revealed Police Scotland scored the most number of interventions from the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office, totalling three interventions at various levels.

In one case, details release by the Scottish Information Commissioner reveal Police Scotland maintained a practice of sending out locked pdf documents with security protocols forbidding their printing.

A file disclosed by the SIC in response to an FOI request stated: “Asked Police Scotland to change its practice and stop sending us (and applicants) locked pdf documents, which can’t be printed out.. We are still waiting for an accessible copy of a document required for case 201501763.”

“Police Scotland has raised the issues of locked documents and undated letters internally.” The issue is subsequently referred to as: “Issue resolved”.

In a Level two intervention with Police Scotland, files released by the Scottish Information Commissioner reveal details of Police Scotland’s information publication scheme.

The SIC asked Police to conduct a “Review of publication scheme (guide to information) from time to time. Proactive publication in the public interest.”

Police Scotland was then “Asked to review guide to information due to broken links etc. and currency of information.”

From information now made public by the SIC, the issue was raised with Police Scotland on 12/11/16 and a reminder issued on 18/02/16. The SIC appears to be awaiting an outcome.

In one of two interventions with the Scottish Government, documents disclosed by the SIC revealed there was a concern at the lack of knowledge of Freedom of Information at the Scottish Government.

Details of the level one intervention with Scottish Ministers revealed: “Meeting with the Office of the Office of the Chief Researcher, instigated by them. Recorded as a level 1 intervention as concerns about level of FOI knowledge within major area of Government.”

“Note of the meeting is on file.Practice areas:- who is covered by FOI. Seemed unaware that Universities are- Section 60 Code IRO contracts and procurement- sections 27, 33 and 36 specifically.”

Power to Intervene:

Powers granted to the Commissioner by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOISA) allow the Scottish Information Commissioner to intervene where it is identified that an authority’s practice is or may be: (i) in breach of its statutory duties under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and/or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs); (ii) falling short of Government guidance, particularly the Section 60 Code.

Anyone who makes a Freedom of Information request to a public authority can request an intervention by the Scottish Information Commissioner, if the public authority in question does not adhere to FOI legislation.

The SIC’s website states: “All interventions will be appropriate and proportionate, and based on robust and accurate evidence.The term “Intervention” covers a range of activities: from providing advice and assistance to authorities in relation to good practice, to formal enforcement action carried out under the Commissioner’s Enforcement Policy.”

Levels of interventions conducted by the Scottish Information Commissioner:

Level 1: These are minor failures to follow good practice. In these cases, we will provide informal advice and assistance to authorities, pointing out the failure and suggesting remedial action. In such cases, individual officers are empowered to give advice to authorities if a relevant failing is identified as a result of an application or enquiry to us and to decide what follow-up action is required.

Level 2: These are ongoing failures by an authority to follow good practice in a specific area of practice. In these cases, an appropriate manager (DHOE, HOE, HOPI or the SIC) will contact the authority to discuss the issues and suggest remedial action. Level 2 interventions will require follow-up contact with the authority to ensure that appropriate action has been taken.

Level 3: These are more serious or systemic failings which have been identified and we do not consider the issue can be rectified without requiring the authority to put in place an action plan to address the issue. In such cases we may invite an authority to carry out a self- assessment using one or more of the modules in our self-assessment toolkit.

Level 4: These are when an authority consistently fails or refuses to comply with FOISA, the EIRs or statutory guidance despite previous interventions by us. In these cases, we may issue (or give warning of our intention to issue) a practice recommendation in terms of section 44 of FOISA specifying the steps that an authority must take in order to conform with its duties under Government guidance. Alternatively, we may issue (or give warning of our intention to issue) an enforcement notice under section 51 of FOISA requiring an authority to take specified steps to comply with Part 1 of FOISA or with the EIRs. We may also decide to carry out an on-site assessment of an authority’s arrangements for handling information requests.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

CROWN CROOKED: Crown Office crime files reveal Scotland’s Prosecutors & staff charged with Drugs crimes, Police assault, threats & perverting the course of justice

Crime & drugs empire at Crown Office revealed. AMID a string of collapsed cases involving high profile criminals, plea deals with gangsters, failures to to prosecute those responsible for multiple deaths, & multi million pound frauds involved legal eagles – documents obtained by the media reveal Scotland’s Prosecutors have their very own crime gang – right at the heart of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Information released in response to Freedom of Information requests now reveal prosecutors & key staff among the ranks of Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland’s £110m-a-year Crown Office empire – have been charged with a string of criminal offences over crimes ranging from violence to misuse of drugs, making threats and offences against Police Officers.

In a period of just two years – from November 2013 to November 2015 – the Crown Office admitted it retained records showing 15 cases reported to COPFS containing allegations of criminal offences by COPFS staff. Court proceedings were taken in 11 cases, three cases were disposed of by non-court disposal and no proceedings were taken in one case.

The charges brought against staff include assault and vandalism; road traffic offences; threatening and abusive conduct; breach of the peace; Misuse of drugs/offences against the police; data protection offences/attempt to pervert the course of justice.

In the 11 cases where court proceedings were raised, these were concluded as follows: Guilty plea accepted (4); accused found guilty after trial (1); case marked for no further action (1); court proceedings active (4).

Crooks among Them – Prosecutors own crime gang revealed. The only case where a COPFS employee was found guilty after trial relates to that of Iain Sawers, 27, from Edinburgh, who was found guilty of passing information to the criminal fraternity – during a seven-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in September 2014.

A jury found Sawers guilty on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, the Official Secrets Act and nine under the Data Protection Act.

Sawers joined the Productions Office of the Procurator Fiscal Service in Chambers Street in the city in 2008.

His induction covered security of information and the warning that any breach could lead to disciplinary proceedings. He was also told, under the Official Secrets Act, the unauthorised disclosure of documents was an offence.

The offences by Sawers came to light when police began an investigation into the case of 27-year old Calum Stewart on charges of breach of bail and attempting to pervert the course of justice by threatening his ex-partner, Kelli Anne Smillie, if she gave evidence in a trial in July, 2013.

Stewart paid for her and her mother to leave the country and go on holiday to Benidorm on the week of the trial.

The police investigations led them to a number of phone calls and text messages between Stewart and Sawers between 24 and 29 January 2014.

These led to Stewart phoning Kelli Anne threatening her and her mother. They were to be witnesses in the outstanding trial which has since been deserted by the Crown.

The police also recovered Sawers’ iPhone. Although many messages had been deleted, forensic experts were able to recover them and the telephone numbers of the senders and receiver. They showed that between April 2008 and January 2014, Sawers had passed on information to other people on nine occasions.

A check on the productions office computer showed shortly after receiving a call, Sawers’ secret personal user number was used to access the information.

The jury also found Stewart guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and breach of bail. Neither men gave evidence during the trial – much to the relief of the Lord Advocate.

The Crown Office also admitted 40 staff  had been subject to disciplinary action, been suspended, dismissed or have been moved to other duties as a result of disciplinary action between January 2013 to late last year and  that 14 of those staff members were suspended in the period requested. The reasons for suspension included allegations related to potential criminal activity and/or charged by Police; and breach of trust.

Of the 40 members of staff who were suspended, 10 were dismissed from the Crown Office.

However officials refused to identify the reasons for their dismissal, insisting they wished to protect the identities of their colleagues and nature of the sackings.

A legal insider has since come forward this week to indicate former Crown Office staff including some of those who were sacked or had faced criminal charges – are back working with private law firms and public bodies with links to the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Sun newspaper reported further, here:

Crooks of the Crown: 15 legal staff on charges

EXCLUSIVE by RUSSELL FINDLAY 7 Mar 2016

COPS charged 15 Crown Office workers with crimes including drugs, police assault and perverting the course of justice.

Violence, vandalism, threats and data breaches were also among the alleged offences.

And 11 of those cases reported over the last two years went to court.

A source said: “The nature of the criminal charges are very serious.

“The Crown Office should be beyond reproach as it’s responsible for highly sensitive information about the most serious crimes and sudden deaths.”

Four of the 11 employees taken to court pleaded guilty, one case was dropped, four are ongoing and the outcome of one is unknown.

It’s thought Edinburgh procurator fiscal’s office worker Iain Sawers, 26, is the only one found guilty.

He was jailed for 18 months in 2014 for attempting to pervert the course of justice by leaking details of cases.

The information about staff charges from the two years to November 2015 was unearthed using freedom of information laws.

Similar data on police officers accused of crimes is published by the Scottish Police Authority.

Last night, Scottish Tory justice spokesman Margaret Mitchell said: “The Crown Office should be no different from Police Scotland in that they should routinely publish this information.”

The Crown Office is Scotland’s prosecution agency headed by the country’s most senior law officer Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland.

A spokesman said: “We employ more than 1,600 staff, the overwhelming majority of whom uphold our high standards of professionalism. Any breach of rules is dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,