Ex-police authority boss to keep £57,000 golden handshake

John Foley.
John Foley.
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The former chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority is to keep a controversial £57,000 golden handshake payment, it has emerged.

The former chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority is to keep a controversial £57,000 golden handshake payment, it has emerged.

The SPA was heavily criticised in December when it published details of John Foley’s exit package, which is made up of an early retirement payment of £43,470 and payment in lieu of notice (Pilon) of £56,666.

In an update to Holyrood’s audit committee, the SPA said it had “no option” but to make the payment or face possible legal action.

Details emerged as the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) said it had received two new complaints relating to allegations of misconduct and gross misconduct about Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins.

Mr Higgins is already suspended as he awaits the outcome of two separate Pirc inquiries into allegations of gross misconduct and criminal behaviour.

Mr Foley took early retirement from his £120,000-a-year post last year after facing calls for his resignation following a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) which raised concerns about his leadership of the organisation and described key relationships as “dysfunctional”.

Details of his exit package emerged last month at the same time as a report from Audit Scotland which was highly critical of “unacceptable” governance failings and poor use of public money at the SPA. That included taxpayer-funded relocation expenses worth nearly £70,000 paid to Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick.

In its update to MSPs, the SPA said it had initially “paused” Mr Foley’s £56,000 payment in lieu of notice following concerns raised by the committee.

It said an internal review had been completed, which took independent legal advice, as well as legal advice from within the SPA and HR advice.

It said: “The financial aspects of John Foley’s exit from the SPA are set out in a contractual agreement between him and the SPA, and Mr Foley has a contractual entitlement to be paid the Pilon sum agreed.

“The current position is that the SPA has no option in law but to honour its contract with Mr Foley and that any attempt to reduce the contractual obligation to pay would fail.

“In addition it is likely that if the SPA were to continue to withhold part or all of the Pilon sum, any subsequent legal challenge could result in the SPA being required to pay also legal costs arising from the action as well as the original full sum agreed.”

In a statement issued last night in relation to the separate matter of Mr Higgins, the Pirc said: “The commissioner is now assessing the fresh allegations to determine whether the conduct, if proved, would amount to misconduct, gross misconduct or neither and to establish whether they too should be investigated.”

In a statement issued on his behalf, Mr Higgins’ lawyer said: “ACC Higgins has been the subject of a campaign of malicious anonymous complaints for many years.

“All of the anonymous complaints have been investigated and have found to be without merit. The latest anonymous allegations follow that pattern. Notwithstanding this, ACC Higgins has already provided a full response and denies any wrongdoing.”

The Scottish Chief Police Officers Staff Association gave its backing to Mr Higgins and said it had “significant concerns regarding the nature, volume and frequency” of the complaints.

Jenny Marra MSP, who convenes the audit committee, said: “We note that the SPA took legal advice on whether it could withhold any of the exit payment made to the former SPA chief executive John Foley.

“We recognise that legally this money can’t now be clawed back, but this begs the question of why this payment was authorised in the first place.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday defended justice secretary Michael Matheson’s handling of the problems at Police Scotland.