SPA chair Susan Deacon backs Michael Matheson’s intervention with her predecessor

Written by Tom Freeman on 23 January 2018 in News

Susan Deacon says Michael Matheson would have been "failing in his duty" if he had not asked questions of secret plan to reinstate Phil Gormley 

Susan Deacon - Scottish Parliament

The new chair of the Scottish Police Authority Susan Deacon has backed the intervention of Justice Secretary Michael Matheson in a row of the return to work of chief constable Phil Gormley.

The chief constable has been on gardening leave since September while claims of bullying are investigated by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC).

In November Matheson intervened after it emerged former SPA chair Andrew Flanagan had written to Gormley inviting him back to work without consulting PIRC, Police Scotland or ministers. The SPA then reversed the decision.

Gormley’s lawyers have suggested Matheson’s intervention may have been unlawful.

But today Susan Deacon, who took over from Flanagan in December, said the process had been “left wanting in many, many ways.”

Speaking to the MSPs of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, the former Labour minister said: “Had I been in the cabinet secretary's shoes - and I have walked in these types of shoes in the past - then I would have asked questions about the process as to how that decision had been made.

“And personally, I think the cabinet secretary would have been failing in his duty if he had not asked those questions.”

Deacon added if she makes decisions in the role that would require a similar intervention by a justice secretary she will have “failed in my duty”.

The SPA chair also said she was changing aspects of how decisions were made to make it more transparent, but resisted calls for an independent review of the structure.

The body needed "accelerated continuous improvement" rather than more reviews, she said.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, who has been leading the police force in Gormley’s absence, said there had been a “different atmosphere” since Deacon had took over.

He confirmed her predecessor Flanagan had not contacted him to inform him of Gormley’s return to work, as revealed by Holyrood last week.

He added Flanagan had texted him to tell him "deliberations were ongoing" despite the fact the board had already decided to invite Gormley back to work.

Flanagan and former SPA chief executive John Foley are set to appear before the Public Audit Committee on Thursday.

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