170 police officers 'have criminal record'

AT LEAST 170 serving police officers in Scotland have criminal records and many of them picked up their convictions while on duty, figures reveal.

It also emerged that half the police forces that gave information had not sacked a single officer with a criminal conviction.

Strathclyde Police alone has 107 serving officers who have convictions and has dismissed another ten.

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Grampian Police has 34 officers with criminal records, none of whom have been dismissed, while Fife Constabulary employs 11 officers who have committed crimes and kept their jobs.

Lothian and Borders has four police officers with criminal convictions and Tayside has sacked just one out of its seven who have records. Dumfries and Galloway has eight police officers with convictions after axing three.

The figures, revealed by Freedom of Information requests from the Liberal Democrats, highlight how officers with convictions ranging from assault to perverting the course of justice and driving offences are still employed on the front line.

Robert Brown, the Liberal Democrats' justice spokesman in Scotland, said the figures were "staggering".

He has written to Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, urging him to release information that one police authority – Northern Constabulary – refused to give.

"The public entrust the police with the use of legal force precisely because they are self- disciplined and restrained," he said. "This trust is undermined if serving police officers convicted of a violent offence are seen not to be dealt with strictly.

"Similarly, the public will wonder how a police officer convicted of perverting the course of justice can perform their duty effectively. Prosecutors would be reluctant to call them as a witness for fear of being taken apart by the defence.

"Hiring and firing must ultimately be the decision of the chief constable, but given these revelations the Scottish Government needs to review any guidance it gives to police forces."

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A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said it had no specific policy or guidance on previous convictions.

He added: "It is at the discretion of individual chief constables as to how such matters are dealt with, having considered all the attendant circumstances."