Scottish Daily Mail

Police chief faces new grilling over guns still on the streets

- By Gareth Rose Scottish Political Reporter ‘A firearm may aggravate the issue’

SENIOR police are being recalled to Holyrood to explain themselves amid an outcry that armed officers are still attending routine incidents.

A special sub- committee on policing will meet later this month, setting up yet another cl ash between t op police officers and MSPs.

It follows Thursday’s admission by Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins that armed police had ‘engaged’ with the public 1,644 times since October.

Last October, Police Scotland promised that armed officers would no longer be dispatched to routine incidents – but since then officers have carried guns while dealing with i ncidents such as drinkdrivi­ng and domestic disputes.

Last month, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House was summoned to explain why t he police had breached another commitment on ending the stop and search of children.

Sir Stephen, whose salary is £208,000-a-year, was visibly riled by MSPs demanding to know if the right man had been picked to lead the national force.

He is not expected to be recalled on this occasion, when his deputy, Iain Livingston­e, and Mr Higgins have been asked to return and give further evidence. Yesterday, John Finnie MSP, committee member and a former officer, accused the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) of going ‘missing’ when it should have been holding the force to account.

Under the new guidelines, armed police should attend only life - threatenin­g incidents, or those already involving guns.

But Mr Finnie, a former Nationalis­t who is now independen­t, said this definition is too vague and gives police licence to take guns to i ncidents that do not require them.

‘As ever with these dealings with Police Scotland, we end up with more questions to ask than we start off with,’ he said.

‘I have to say I was less than impressed with the performanc­e of the police authority – the public quite rightly look to them to be scrutinisi­ng on our behalf, and yet again they have been missing.

‘Given the precise nature of how Police Scotland said they would engage with these officers, almost anything can be turned into a risk to life, a serious threat ongoing, whether that’s a missing person or dangerous driving.

‘They do not require firearms to deal with someone who is driving dangerousl­y. They do not require firearms to deal with a domestic incident that is getting out of hand, indeed I would argue the presence of a firearm at a domestic incident aggravates the issue.’

Lib Dem justice spokesman Alison McInnes said: ‘I am pleased that we will have another chance to get the public the answers that they need on this hugely controvers­ial issue.

‘It is no surprise that we ran out of time yesterday, given how long it look to tease answers out of the senior officers. There are serious questions to be asked over the manner in which the police have approached this issue and it would have been wrong to leave unfinished business.’

Last month, the SPA was accused of being a ‘toothless failure’ by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who said it acted too slowly on stop and search, armed policing, and the force’s war on motorists.

Last night, the SPA insisted lessons were being learned. A spokesman said: ‘The SPA carried out its inquiry into armed policing as part of our drive for continuous improvemen­t. Police Scotland has committed to engage with the SPA on any future changes to the carriage of firearms or the way armed officers are deployed.’

A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘The model of deployment and the modes of weapons carriage are the subject of review and we will report on those matters to the SPA by the end of March.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Firearms officers are now only deployed when responding to firearms incidents or in cases where there is a threat to life.’

 ??  ?? Yesterday’s Mail
Yesterday’s Mail

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom