DCSIMG

Police watchdogs to examine gun carrying policy

The decision to arm regular officers has sparked controversy. Picture: Hemedia

The decision to arm regular officers has sparked controversy. Picture: Hemedia

  • by CHRISTOPHER MARSHALL
 

THE controversial decision to allow some officers to carry handguns is to be scrutinised by two police watchdogs.

THE controversial decision to allow some officers to carry handguns is to be scrutinised by two police watchdogs.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) will carry out an inquiry into Police Scotland’s use of firearms, while HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) will undertake its own review.

There has been growing criticism since it emerged Chief Constable Sir Stephen House had issued a “standing authority”, allowing a number of officers to carry guns.

Despite a robust defence of the policy from the police, questions were raised after armed ­officers were seen responding to routine incidents. Last month, armed officers were photographed attending a minor altercation at a McDonald’s in ­Inverness.

The HMICS review will independently assess current practices and the carrying of firearms by armed response vehicle (ARV) crews under the standing authority.

HMICS will also consider how armed response officers operating under the standing authority are deployed on regular patrols and tasks, and the extent to which Police Scotland’s decision-making process has incorporated wider community impact.

The SPA inquiry will consider the public impact of Police Scotland’s decision around firearms.

Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said: “This review provides an opportunity to make an objective, professional assessment on whether the operational decision-making by Police Scotland on the standing authority for firearms has followed the relevant guidance, and that any conclusion is supported by the prevailing threat, risk and available intelligence.”

Iain Whyte, chairman of the SPA scrutiny inquiry, added: “We have acknowledged that the issue of armed policing is a contentious one, and that we would keep this issue under review. Questions and views continue to be raised about the issue and we have concluded that an inquiry provides an opportunity for us to assess the level and nature of those concerns.”

Police Scotland insisted it welcomed the announcements.

Scottish Labour’s spokesman for justice, Graeme Pearson, said: “These reviews come very late in the day and no doubt seek to deal with elements of the controversy ahead of [SPA chairman] Vic Emery’s visit to the Scottish Parliament’s sub-committee next week. The SPA should be confident in the view that there is an absolute need for officers to carry automatic guns on every occasion despite an ­absence of a threat to life.”

Lib Dem Alison McInnes added: “After months of pressure, the SPA and HMICS have belatedly recognised this fundamental change must be formally and thoroughly scrutinised.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “It is unacceptable that the justice secretary thought the extended use of armed officers could simply come into force without anyone noticing.”

Meanwhile, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill was last night confronted by independence supporters who object to police carrying guns. Representatives of a 16-strong group, from the left wing of the independence movement, met Mr MacAskill when he visited Dundee.

 

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