Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland instructed Police witch-hunt against media leaks. SCOTLAND’S £100m a year Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) headed by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, has launched a highly criticised investigation against the Sunday Mail newspaper over revelations of alleged bullying and misconduct by Police Chiefs.
The investigation at the behest of the Crown Office is widely seen as an attempt to thwart future whistle-blowers from leaking information surrounding dodgy dealings and widespread misconduct in the new single Police Service of Scotland (PSS) and other parts of Scotland's widely discredited justice system and it’s errant children.
Top cops probe councillors to try to find sources of Sunday Mail reports that embarrassed police chiefs
By Russell Findlay Sunday Mail Jul 2013 08:30
POLITICIANS, free speech campaigners and media experts condemn detectives' investigation after we revealed allegations of bullying and misconduct by senior officers.
ELITE detectives have been ordered to quiz councillors to try to find the sources of Sunday Mail stories that embarrassed their bosses.
Officers from Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team are trying to identify the source of our reports which revealed allegations of bullying and misconduct by senior officers.
Detectives from the unit who usually tackle murders, serious and organised crime and terrorism want to quiz councillors who served on the former Strathclyde Police Authority.
Yesterday, the unprecedented molehunt was questioned by politicians, free speech campaigners and media experts who voiced fears of a “chilling effect” on the press in the wake of the Leveson Report.
Professor Tim Luckhurst, of the University of Kent journalism school and a former editor of The Scotsman, said: “The allegations published in the Sunday Mail plainly deal with serious matters that should be in the public domain. They conform with any serious definition of what is in the public interest. It is alarming that police officers are expending time and energy in an effort to identify the whistleblower.”
In November, we told how Detective Superintendent Michael Orr, then in charge of the bungled investigation into the murder of Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll had accused three Strathclyde Police bosses of misconduct. They included Neil Richardson, who is now the £169,000-a-year Deputy Chief Constable at the new single Police Scotland force led by Sir Stephen House. One of Orr’s allegations was that Richardson had breached data protection laws.
The following month, the Sunday Mail reported that Richardson along with another officer were the subject of a separate complaint by Mike Currie, who is an ex-Deputy Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police. The case centres on claims that members of the force’s pipe band, including Currie’s sons, had been bullied.
A report probed 13 complaints about Richardson including neglect of duty, willful or careless falsehood and conduct likely to bring discredit. It found enough evidence for the authority to consider one neglect of duty claim against Richardson but they took no action. Currie also alleged criminality against Richardson but procurator fiscal John Dunn decided no crime had been committed.
Both stories are now being investigated by the MIT, led by Detective Inspector Bob Frew, from their office in Govan, Glasgow.
It is not known what sparked the investigation but MIT officers have asked councillors who served on the now defunct Strathclyde Police Authority’s complaints and professional standards committee to be available for interview.
The molehunt comes just weeks after Glasgow City Council launched an internal inquiry to find out how the Herald newspaper learned the new publicly-funded Hydro venue was unlikely to open on schedule because of construction delays.
Yesterday, Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson MSP questioned the police inquiry. He said: “I hope that they’re not using a sledgehammer to crack a nut here. There is a public interest in these matters we need to see transparency about what goes on.”
Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: “It is of considerable concern that, following these reports, which are in the public interest, police are investigating the source of the information.”
Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris said: “This may be considered by many to be both disproportionate and overly defensive.”
Tory MP Rob Wilson has been critical of how Lord Leveson handled an alleged conflict of interest in his inquiry. The Reading East MP said: “It is very worrying to learn that, following the Leveson report, the police are investigating journalists who report on them. It is not going too far to say that it is a threat to the health of democracy if police end up immune from media scrutiny.”
Prof Luckhurst added: “Editors have warned of a chilling effect since Leveson reported. They fear that it has given state and public authorities encouragement to hide information that should be public property. Their actions are unlikely to serve the public interest in any way.”
Police Scotland said: “Following instruction from the Crown Office, inquiries are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment.”
The Scottish Police Authority said: “Any allegations of criminality are referred to the Crown Office
Mail Opinion: A chilling threat to a free press 7 Jul 2013 00:01
MAIL OPINION says getting straight answers from the authorities, particularly Police Scotland, is like getting blood from a brick.
Look up irony in the dictionary and you might find a listing for a Channel 4 documentary being shown on Tuesday night.
The programme details Nat Fraser’s retrial for the murder of his wife and is, the producers tell us, the first time in Britain cameras have been allowed in court to film a murder trial.
It is a Scottish court and it is ironic because Scottish justice, from arrests to convictions, from criminal courts to civil, is more hidden and closed to the public than ever before.
Our papers and broadcasters are the eyes and ears of our readers, viewers and listeners. We find out stuff and then we tell you about it.
We like to pretend that we get it whispered in our ears at clandestine meetings with sources in underground car parks at midnight.
In reality, most of it has been obtained or, at least, confirmed by straightforward enquiries to the authorities.
Has been because, these days, getting straight answers to anything from most of them, but particularly Police Scotland, is like getting blood from a brick. Closing down traditional, official and once-helpful channels of communication is one thing.
Charging an elite crime squad set up to investigate terrorists and organised criminals with finding the sources of two Sunday Mail stories about alleged misconduct by senior officers is something else.
Who instigated these inquiries? And why? Who sanctioned them? And for what purpose will detectives spend their time quizzing councillors to try to find out if one, two, more or none of them passed information to our journalists.
That, of course, is the only part of this misguided, heavy-handed investigation that we know about. Who knows what else they are doing? How much more time and expense is being squandered in pursuit of..what exactly?
Do Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, Police Scotland chief constable Stephen House and their lieutenants really believe this molehunt will end in a prosecution?
Or are they content that it might help deter other politicians, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, prosecutors, court officials and civil servants thinking about blowing the whistle in the public interest?
Because who needs whistle-blowers, right? Because the authorities will tell us all about the Met smearing Stephen Lawrence’s family? Or the truth about Hillsborough?
About how the Care Quality Commission destroyed evidence of their failure to stop children dying needlessly? About GCHQ spying on our emails? About MPs stealing our money and calling it expenses?
God and Lord Leveson knows that papers are not perfect but we do our best to tell our readers what is going on.
We really don’t want to sound as if we wrap our homes in tinfoil to stop martians stealing our thought waves but there is something going on, right now, right here in Scotland, that is as insidious as it is dangerous.
Public authorities, from councils and courts to police and government, seem increasingly keen to treat newspapers and, to a lesser extent, broadcasters like an enemy.
We are not their enemy.
Their enemy is an arrogant and apparently escalating disregard for the people who inform the people who pay their wages.