Senior Police Scotland officer suspended ‘following criminal allegations’

The PIRC said it was investigating allegations of criminality against officers serving with Police Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
The PIRC said it was investigating allegations of criminality against officers serving with Police Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
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A senior officer at Police Scotland has been suspended from police duties, according to the Scottish Police Authority.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins was suspended on Friday by the SPA after “a number of criminal and misconduct allegations”.

One of the most senior officers in Police Scotland, ACC Higgins has responsibility for operational support, custody and criminal justice divisions, a role he was appointed to in September 2016. He joined Strathclyde Police in 1988, serving in uniform posts across Glasgow and Lanarkshire between 1988 and 2010.

The SPA board said it took the decision after the allegations were brought to its attention by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

The authority can suspend a senior officer on the condition that an effective criminal or misconduct investigation may be prejudiced, or if the allegations would make suspension in the public interest.

READ MORE: Seven Police Scotland officers investigated for gross misconduct

In a statement, a spokesman for the SPA said on Friday: “Having considered the views of the Pirc, the authority has concluded that both these conditions were satisfied and have taken the necessary steps this afternoon to suspend him from the office of constable.

“The SPA has in addition today formally referred misconduct allegations relating to the senior officer to the Pirc for further investigation having assessed that, if proven, they would constitute gross misconduct.

“The suspension is effective with immediate effect and will be reviewed in four weeks, or if there is a change in circumstances relevant to the suspension.”

As well as the four suspensions, a further two other officers have also been placed on restricted duties.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “I can confirm that Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins was suspended today by the Scottish Police Authority.

“In addition, three other officers have been suspended, and two others placed on restricted duties, by Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick.

“This is connection with an investigation by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.

“At this time our focus must remain on continuing to meet the operational challenges that we face each day.

“I will be reviewing the command team structure and in the meantime ACC Nelson Telfer will take on responsibility for the Operational Support portfolio in addition to his existing duties.”

Pirc said it was investigating allegations of “criminality against officers” serving with Police Scotland.

The allegations were provided anonymously and the commissioner referred them to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

After consideration, the COPFS decided an independent investigation should be carried out by Pirc and this is now under way.

The commissioner referred the matters to the SPA on October 18.

A PIRC spokesman said: “On 24 November 2017 the SPA referred allegations of gross misconduct about the senior officer to the PIRC and suspended the officer.”

A spokesman for the commissioner said: “Following receipt of anonymous allegations of criminality by officers, including a senior officer, serving with Police Scotland, the commissioner referred the allegations to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

“This was to allow the COPFS to consider whether the criminal allegations should be investigated by the commissioner.

“The COPFS decided that an independent investigation should be carried out by the PIRC and this is now under way.”