Thursday, January 14, 2016
Contempt for democracy: Police Scotland officers refuse to appear at spy probe called by Holyrood Justice Committee, justice committee should compel these people to attend, everyone needs to operate under the rule of law, and no exceptions should be made for Police Scotland personnel, no matter how special they think they are
In a democracy, the rule of law is important, and especially among those who are employed in law enforcement. It seems that three police officers have refused to attend a Holyrood hearing on the scandal of unlawfully spying on journalists’ sources.
In effect they have stuck two fingers up to the parliament; however, it appears that the Justice Committee have the powers to compel witnesses to appear before the Parliament.
The force’s Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) unlawfully used its powers to find out if serving and former officers had been involved in helping the Sunday Mail.
This begs a question, did the members of the CCU have authority to do this, or where they just making it up as they went along?
You would think that they would realise that doing what they were doing required oversight and being signed off by higher authority, after all when the music stops who wants to be the last one with a chair.
Was it wrong what the members of the CCU did, yes it was and not from a morality standpoint but by a legal standpoint.
The Holyrood committee invited four officers linked to the row: Detective Superintendent David Donaldson; Detective Inspector Joanne Grant; Detective Superintendent Brenda Smith; and Chief Superintendent Clark Cuzen to appear. However it appears that DI Grant only is prepared to assist the Committee.
Under Human Rights law, these people have the right to remain silent, because the law says so.
After Police Scotland started stalling about these people appearing, the Justice Committee wrote directly to the staff associations about asking the four to attend and got a less than impressive response.
Niven Rennie, the President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, which represents Cuzen, Donaldson and Smith, wrote back:
“Having been in dialogue with all three, however, I have been asked to inform you that they would prefer not to attend a committee session at this time. None of our members believe that they have any information to share with the committee which would add to the evidence which has already been provided. Moreover, they believe that the pending inspection that is to be conducted by HMICS will provide further clarity on this issue, as will potential legal proceedings such as an Investigatory Powers Tribunal.”
“We very much hope that you will accept the position of our members in this respect.”
You have to laugh at this end bit, a load of people break the law and they want to fall back on a respect agenda, any chance that they will come out and say they are real victims in this sorry tale?
I also think it would be for the Committee to decide what they think it is relevant to ask, and perhaps they might have additional questions.
What about those who were spied on, well it appears that they are unhappy and have decided to seek redress from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, after all a few quid might come in handy.
No one is above the law, not the government or the police, but it doesn’t bode well that some people think they can operate as they wish within a democracy and within a police force.
I think that demotions are the order of the day and removal from the Counter Corruption Unit; it makes no sense to have these people remain in post now. This sorry affair came to light under the watch of Sir Stephen House who has now gone, it was said this might have hasten his departure out the door, not sure about that, it was a mountain of criticism that done for him.
Although I am not a fan of the current crop in Holyrood regarding their abilities, they were elected to public office, so the police officers should attend, and if it has to be a closed session then that is the way to go.
We don’t have political interference on operational matters regarding policing because we assume that those doing the job operate to the rule of law and in good faith, it seems that some don’t do either.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University