The body of Kevin Mcleod, 24, was recovered from Wick Harbour in February 1997 after he had been on a night out with friends.
Last year Police Scotland admitted Northern Constabulary had failed to treat the death as murder, despite an instruction from prosecutors.
A copy of an anonymised report by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), which has been seen by The Scotsman, concludes that a recent review of the case initiated by former Chief Constable Phil Gormley did not look into why that decision by Northern Constabulary was made. The Pirc report, which is due to be published next week, upholds a complaint against the SPA, calling on it to explain to the Mcleods why Mr Gormley did not pass on the instruction to his officers carrying out the review.
The report states: “Whilst the circumstances of the death have been re-assessed, there is no specific information to suggest that the legacy force’s alleged failure to carry out an instruction from the Crown has been re-examined.
“In light of the correspondence between the family and Police Scotland, it appears reasonable that the family had been given an expectation that all of their concerns would be taken into account and that all matters would be considered. However, the response to the applicants fails to provide an adequate explanation as to why this specific concern was not addressed or investigated.”
Commenting on the Pirc report, Allan Mcleod, Kevin’s uncle, said: “We have recently been made aware from information obtained that all the agencies involved had known of this failure by police from the outset, if not from when their organisations were established, but instead of addressing this criminal negligence by police they all buried their heads in the sand, concealed and hid this failure by police from the family and the media. We now await the outcome of the review recently instructed by the Lord Advocate in the hope it will finally expose the truth and hold to account those involved in what can only be described as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of policing and justice in Scotland.” An SPA spokesman said: “The SPA’s Complaints and Conduct Committee will carefully consider and address as required any recommendations made by the Pirc following a Complaint Handling Review.”