Under-fire police chief Phil Gormley has been accused of giving inaccurate information to a Holyrood committee.
The troubled Police Scotland Chief Constable – who is on leave while watchdogs investigate four bullying claims – was contacted by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee earlier this year.
But a former officer has claimed Gormley gave committee convenor Mary Fee false information when asked about the force’s controversial Professional Standards Department (PSD) and how whistleblowers’ complaints were handled.
Ex-constable Karen Harper alleges she was victimised by colleagues who set up an internal investigation to discredit her after she raised a grievance against a line manager.
She has lodged misconduct allegations against 12 officers.
Now the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing are to investigate claims Gormley provided MSPs with incorrect details. The probe has been triggered by a letter sent by Harper’s solicitors.
A committee spokesman said: “We have received the letter. Although committees are not responsible for the evidence witnesses supply to them, the sub-committee have taken steps to clarify the evidence which is questioned by the letter.”
Harper, of Dumfries, asked to work flexible hours in 2015 so she could spend more time with her son.
She claims she was then bullied and later faced allegations about her professional conduct.
“Our client believes that her experiences as a Complainer provide credible proof that Police Scotland is incapable and or unwilling to genuinely embrace a CHP which guarantees effective, robust and independent investigation of complaints against CCU/ACU/PSD and that there is a compelling public interest case for such complaints to be removed from Police Scotland and dealt with instead by a separate, independent statutory body like they are in England and Wales by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.” Employment Solicitor Margaret Gribbon
The 49-year-old – who has left the force on health grounds – accused Police Scotland of going on a fishing expedition to generate complaints against her.
An internal probe by the PSD is ongoing – but Harper has repeatedly raised concerns over the unit’s independence.
She claims the unit misled her over her rights and has no confidence in the body to investigate her allegations fairly.
In May last year, Harper lodged a formal complaint with Gormley over her treatment and implicated officers within the PSD.
Gormley is facing four bullying allegations and is on paid leave while the claims are investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
The chief constable told Mary Fee in a letter that: “No complaints have been made against officers within PSD.”
He is also alleged to have given wrong information about the force’s Complaint Handling Procedures and the rights of a police officer to complain.
Harper’s letter to Fee, sent by Glasgow law firm Bridge Litigation, says: “Our client therefore contends that the response provided by the chief constable is incorrect since she intimated a formal complaint to the chief constable on May 26, 2016, alleging criminal conduct and misconduct against an inspector and chief inspector working in the PSD.”
Harper’s solicitor Margaret Gribbon also states that Gormley told Fee that any police officer could go to PIRC if unhappy with the way the force had handled a complaint. The letter states: “This is simply untrue.”
She adds that the PIRC wrote to Harper in January explaining they did not have the power to deal with her complaint as she was not a member of the public.
“We can confirm that a complaint has been received and is under investigation." Chief Superintendent Alan Speirs
The letter concludes: “Our client believes that her experiences as a Complainer provide credible proof that Police Scotland is incapable and or unwilling to genuinely embrace a CHP which guarantees effective, robust and independent investigation of complaints against CCU/ACU/PSD and that there is a compelling public interest case for such complaints to be removed from Police Scotland and dealt with instead by a separate, independent statutory body like they are in England and Wales by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”
Harper declined to comment.
Gribbon said complaints had also gone to PIRC and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) about Gormley’s representations to Fee.
PSD boss Chief Superintendent Alan Speirs said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received and is under investigation.
“As this is a live inquiry, it would be inappropriate to comment further. However, it is important to stress that Police Scotland have in place robust complaint handling procedures and, in this instance, the complaint is being overseen by an independent senior officer.”
The SPA said: “ Complaint and conduct matters are confidential.”
A PIRC spokesman said: “As set out by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006, the PIRC are unable to carry out a Complaint Handling Review on behalf of individuals serving with the police, or those who have previously served, about their terms and conditions of employment.”