SPA press release on Phil Gormley’s return to work ‘not true’, says acting chief constable of Police Scotland
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) made no contact with Police Scotland to manage Chief Constable Phil Gormley’s return to work, the man currently leading the force has confirmed.
Acting Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, who is holding the reins at Police Scotland while Gormley is on gardening leave amid accusations of bullying, said claims the SPA had made arrangements to support the welfare of all parties in the investigation were “not true”.
In a statement last week, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs he had intervened when governing body the SPA had written to Gormley in November inviting him back to work without consulting ministers, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) or the force.
But yesterday Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee published correspondence between the SPA and Gormley’s lawyer which included a draft press release drafted on the afternoon of 9 November, the day before the SPA expected Gormley back at work.
It thanked Livingstone for his “reassurance, stability and direction” in Gormley’s absence and claimed the SPA “had taken necessary steps with Police Scotland to ensure suitable arrangements are put in place to support the welfare of all involved parties until the alleged conduct issues are concluded”.
However, speaking exclusively to Holyrood, DCC Livingstone said he first saw the release when it was published by the committee.
“That is a draft press release that has not gone beyond Mr Gormley’s lawyers and the SPA, but it makes mention of me, and it makes mention that the SPA had made arrangements to support the welfare of all involved parties. That’s not true,” he said.
“It may have been the intention to have made those arrangements. But it had not happened. That is categorical.”
Livingstone said there was “significant concern” about the welfare of the officers and staff involved in the investigation, but no steps had been taken to manage Gormley’s return to work.
Gormley had not given an indication to Livingstone that he was on his way back.
“You’ve got individual officers and members of staff who had concerns there. I certainly had concerns for them, even if the authority didn’t,” said Livingstone.
Gormley has denied the allegations of bullying, calling them “vexatious and opportunistic”.
The SPA has faced criticism from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and Audit Scotland, and its former senior leadership team has since left.
Former chairman Andrew Flanagan, who had written to Gormley inviting him back to work, has resigned while former chief executive John Foley took early retirement in October.
The body is now chaired by former Labour MSP Susan Deacon, who has said it needs to be “more robust” in dealing with complaints.
The full interview with DCC Livingstone will appear the next issue of Holyrood magazine.