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Senior police officer returns to work from suspension

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins is still under investigation by a watchdog.

Bernard Higgins: Officer is facing misconduct and criminal allegations.
Bernard Higgins: Officer is facing misconduct and criminal allegations. © STV

One of Police Scotland's most senior officers is to return to work from a period of suspension.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins is facing misconduct and criminal allegations which are being probed by Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

He was suspended along with three other officers over the claims in November and is now the subject of two separate Pirc investigations.

However, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has cleared Mr Higgins to return to his duties on March 19 following a review of his case.

His lawyer said the assistant chief constable had "fully cooperated" with the investigations.

A spokeswoman for the SPA said: "A senior Police Scotland officer is to return to active duties on March 19, 2018, following a period of suspension.

"The officer's case has been subject to regular review and, at the latest meeting of the SPA's complaints and conduct committee on Thursday, March 8, it was decided that the conditions for suspension were no longer met and suspension should be lifted.

"While independent investigatory proceedings in relation to the officer have not concluded, the committee's decision has been informed by the views of the Pirc.

"The SPA, given its statutory functions in complaints handling and its responsibilities as an employer, can confirm that appropriate welfare and management arrangements have been discussed with the interim chief constable."

Police Scotland's former chief constable Phil Gormley resigned from the force last month in the face of misconduct allegations and five Pirc probes.

https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1407839-chief-constable-of-police-scotland-phil-gormley-resigns/ | default

Mr Higgins' solicitor, Callum Anderson of Levy and MacRae, said: "ACC Higgins is pleased to return to his duties.

"He has fully cooperated with every stage of the investigation and provided a substantial body of evidence to the SPA to demonstrate that all of the anonymous unspecific allegations against him are entirely without foundation."

A spokesman for Pirc said: "A number of allegations alleging both criminality and misconduct about a senior officer were referred by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the SPA to the Pirc between November 6, 2017, and January 18, 2018.

"The Pirc has responsibility to investigate such allegations, made by complainers, to identify whether the evidence supports or refutes the allegations made and then to report to the COPFS and/or the SPA as appropriate.

"In this case, reports will be submitted to both the COPFS, in relation to the criminal allegations and to the SPA in respect of the misconduct allegations, for their consideration of any appropriate action."

He added: "The question of suspension is a matter for the SPA and is an entirely different process from its consideration of whether or not there is a case to answer by the senior officer.

"The SPA may suspend a senior officer if it is satisfied that an effective criminal or misconduct investigation may be prejudiced if the senior officer is not suspended, or there are other relevant considerations where the public interest requires the senior officer's suspension."

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