Police Scotland has confirmed that senior officers were aware of changes to data interception guidelines in the weeks before they were broken.
The Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (Iocco) ruled last year that Police Scotland contravened data guidelines while attempting to expose details of a journalist’s source.
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee published today, Police Scotland’s head of legal services, Duncan Campbell, said the force’s Communications Investigation Unit (CIU) had been made aware of the changes on 24 February and was told to “cease progression” of any applications for data involving journalists.
In December, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said Det Supt David Donaldson had “misinterpreted” the new code 22 days after it came into effect on 25 March.
Police Scotland had used the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to unmask a journalist’s source after information was leaked from the investigation into the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell.
In his letter to the justice committee, Mr Campbell said meetings had been arranged with figures including Detective Chief Superintendent Clark Cuzen, head of the force’s Counter Corruption Unit, at the start of March to update them on changes to the code.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone - who applied for the recent chief constable vacancy - was among those copied in on the correspondence.
It emerged today that four officers - including Mr Cuzen - will not give evidence to MSPs on the issue.
Holyrood’s justice committee had called for them to appear on January 12 following Iocco’s ruling.
But Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said “critical legal issues” remained unresolved about the appearance of the officers as well as a threat to their personal safety.
Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson will now appear in their place.