Police chiefs in spying row to give evidence to MSPs

Senior police officers have been called to appear before a committee of MSPs. Picture: Scottish Parliament
Senior police officers have been called to appear before a committee of MSPs. Picture: Scottish Parliament
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The head of Police Scotland’s controversial internal affairs unit is among those to have been called to give evidence to MSPs amid allegations that the force monitored the phone calls and Facebook posts of its own officers.

Holyrood’s justice committee has requested four senior officers – including Chief Superintendent Clark Cousins, head of the Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) – appear to answer questions next month. This follows a ­ruling by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (Iocco) in November that Police Scotland contravened data guidelines by attempting to expose details of a journalist’s source without first seeking judicial approval.

MSPs are also seeking answers following separate allegations made to the committee in a letter from the solicitor, Aamer Anwar.

Mr Anwar, who claims to represent more than 20 officers with complaints against the CCU, wrote to convener Christine Grahame this month about his client, Constable Andrew Reid.

Mr Reid was acquitted in January of data protection offences in a case which cost the taxpayer £500,000.

In his letter to the committee, Mr Anwar claims the officer was subject to “some form of illegal interception of his communications”.

He said: “Constable Reid, in his initial request to DCC Neil Richardson, asked him to confirm or deny whether officers from CCU intercepted or viewed private communications sent or received by him.

“He also asked the DCC to confirm or deny whether his social media was being monitored, which would include Facebook, e-mails and mobile communications.”

Mr Anwar said a response provided by Mr Richardson on 4 November had failed to provide answers to Mr Reid’s concerns.

The lawyer said a “dossier of complaints” had now been amassed from police officers raising serious allegations of “corruption, bullying or law-breaking” within the CCU.

Earlier this week, Mr Richardson appeared before the justice committee to answer questions on Iocco’s findings.

Police Scotland sought to identify the source of a leak using phone numbers after press reports appeared about the investigation into the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell.

The justice committee has now invited Mr Cousins and three other senior officers to give evidence on 12 January.

In a letter to the committee, Police Scotland said it was considering its position and would be taking legal advice.

Ms Grahame said: “They are the officers that made the decisions. The committee thought it only appropriate they should be called to give their evidence.

“We want to hear from these officers first [on the Iocco findings] and then we will decide what we will do about Aamer Anwar’s comments and whether there is a ‘dossier’.”

Chief Superintendent Andrew Morris said: “We can confirm four officers have been invited to attend the justice committee on 12 January. We are currently considering the invitation.”