Police Scotland ready to pay out over illegal surveillance

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said the matter was in hand. Picture: Andrew Cowan
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said the matter was in hand. Picture: Andrew Cowan
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Police Scotland is preparing to make compensation payments to four men put under illegal surveillance by the force’s Counter Corruption Unit.

The now-defunct CCU breached guidelines on accessing communications data when, in 2015, it attempted to uncover a journalist’s sources following stories about the investigation into the unsolved murder of Emma Caldwell in 2005.

Durham Constabulary, which was brought in to carry out an investigation into the episode, said the four men – two serving officers and two retired officers – had been “gravely wronged”.

In a report published last year, the English force said the four complainants deserved a public apology, and it called for ex-gratia payments to be considered.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick has now written to a committee of MSPs to inform them the matter of compensation is “in hand” and will be discussed with the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) next month.

Caldwell, 27, was working as a prostitute when her body was discovered in woodland in South Lanarkshire 13 years ago.

Officers from the CCU began the search for a journalist’s source after media reports about a “forgotten suspect” in 2015.

The four complainants took legal action to “complain of the collateral interference with their privacy”.

One of the men was later awarded £10,000 in damages following a decision by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).

In a letter to John Finnie, the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing, Fitzpatrick said Police Scotland had “developed options for consideration” which would be discussed with the SPA on 1 May.

Finnie said: “Police Scotland were wrong in the way they dealt with this issue; this was confirmed by the independent tribunal and, most importantly, fault has been publicly acknowledged by Police Scotland.

“There’s no doubt there’s a history of ex-gratia payments being made by public authorities, including the police, and it would seem to me that a further way of recognising the harm done to the four individuals would be to provide them with financial compensation.”

He added: “I am satisfied the necessary arrangements are now in place to prevent a repetition of this sorry incident.”

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “Police Scotland is committed to working with the complainers to fully and completely conclude all matters.

“Any future considerations of compensatory or ex-gratia payments will be considered within the legal frameworks which govern Police Scotland in conjunction with planned discussions involving the Scottish Police Authority.”