Senior officers give backing to embattled police chief

Chief Constable Phil Gormley. 
Picture: Ian Rutherford
Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A number of senior police officers have given their backing to Scotland’s chief constable amid continuing uncertainty over his future.

Phil Gormley has been on leave since September while allegations of bullying are examined by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

Past colleagues of the chief constable were among those to write in his defence on Twitter after former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill last week reiterated calls for Mr Gormley to step aside.

Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary, said Mr Gormley was an “excellent chief and leader” who had made a “real difference” during his policing career.

Suzette Davenport, the former chief constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, described Mr Gormley as “hugely committed” and said he had a “positive value set”.

And Charlie Hall, the chief constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary, who also worked alongside Mr Gormley in Norfolk, described him as “supportive and inclusive”.

There was anger at Mr MacAskill’s suggestion in a newspaper column that Mr Gormley should resign before the Pirc investigation has been completed.

Mr Gormley – whose legal team has described the complaints against him as “vexatious” and “opportunistic” – faces dismissal if allegations of gross misconduct are proved.

He continues to collect his £214,000-a-year salary while on leave.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board approved Mr Gormley’s return to work in November before an “intervention” by justice secretary Michael Matheson.

Mr Matheson has come under pressure for effectively overruling the SPA, which made its decision without consulting the Pirc.

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament’s audit committee released a letter from Paul Johnston, the senior civil servant with responsibility for the justice portfolio.

Mr Johnston said the justice secretary had “sought assurance” from the SPA that “due process” had been followed before arriving at the decision to allow Mr Gormley to return to work.

Mr Johnston wrote: “This assurance was not forthcoming and the Cabinet Secretary made clear that he found it difficult to understand how such a decision had been reached without this key step having been taken.”

Former SPA chairman Andrew Flanagan and its ex-chief executive, John Foley, are due to appear before ­Holyrood’s audit committee on 25 January.

On the same day, the SPA board will take a decision on whether the chief constable’s period of leave should be ­continued.