Police chief condemns undercover officers who burnt papers
‘Marking own homework’
SCOTLAND’S police chief has condemned ‘deplorable’ undercover officers who burned documents in a garden incinerator.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said it was believed phone bills and bank statements may have been among the material that was destroyed.
He said no one was prosecuted and two officers faced misconduct proceedings before the unit was shut down.
Mr Livingstone said there may have been a mistaken perception that the department saw itself as ‘elite’, meaning it believed it could break rules. His condemnation came as members of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) voiced concern yesterday that a public report by Police Scotland on the affair had missed out key information.
The organisation, which is a ‘civilian oversight’ body for the single force, demanded another report.
Earlier this year, Mr Livingstone said he was ‘shocked’ by claims undercover officers at the nowdefunct Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) had been told to destroy documents, amid a probe into its finances.
The controversy began after it emerged in a Court of Session judgment in February that an SCDEA whistleblower had alleged she was ordered to buy a garden incinerator and petrol to dispose of paperwork in 2011. The woman claimed retired detectives working for the organisation said: ‘This is like [police TV series] Life on Mars.’
Intelligence officers were said to have been told to burn documents on wasteland but after uniformed colleagues arrived, they were told to do so in a yard at the SCDEA’s HQ.
At an SPA meeting yesterday, Mr Livingstone said he believed Police Scotland’s own internal inquiry, backed up by another investigation by the Metropolitan Police, had established that the controversy was ‘addressed’ at the time.
He said he was satisfied that present-day undercover policing was free of the bad practice identified at the SCDEA.
Condemning the incineration, Mr Livingstone said it was ‘deplorable, outrageous behaviour’ that would not be tolerated today.
He said some of the undercover officers may have seen themselves as ‘some kind of elite unit’.
SPA board member Tom Halpin said the fact no one had faced formal conduct proceedings was ‘of concern’, adding: ‘Some think you are marking your own homework.’
The Met report, published last week, suggested that undercover police who burned paperwork may have been part of a cover-up.
The SCDEA Professional Standards Unit investigated the Special Operations Unit after allegations its finances were a ‘shambles’.
Two officers – known as A and C – were found to have acted improperly, though the Crown Office found no evidence of criminality. One retired with ill health and the other received ‘management advice’.