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Relationship between senior police and watchdog to be probed

Humza Yousaf will look at 'too cosy' relationship between officers and their oversight body.

Police: Humza Yousaf gave evidence to Holyrood's Justice Committee.
Police: Humza Yousaf gave evidence to Holyrood's Justice Committee. Getty Images / Mark Runnacles

Any perception of a "too cosy" relationship between senior police officers and their oversight body regarding complaints is not good for public confidence, Scotland's justice secretary has said.

Humza Yousaf said he would urgently address the issue after concerns raised by former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini QC.

She used the phrase "too cosy" to describe the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) evaluating misconduct allegations against senior police officers, who attend SPA board and committee meetings.

Dame Elish made the comment on Monday while giving evidence to Holyrood's Justice Committee on her interim report into police complaint handling and misconduct allegations.

Giving evidence to the same committee on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf said: "There's a small handful of senior officers who work quite closely with the SPA, who are themselves a small team.

"At the very least there could be a perception that there is familiarity and the relationship is too cosy."

He said Dame Elish's recommendation for setting up an independent panel to deal with misconduct complaints against senior officers would be taken "very seriously".

Mr Yousaf added: "I think it's something I will take as a matter of urgency in terms of my conversations with partner organisations because I think even the perception of the relationships being too cosy is not good for public confidence."

Questioned on Dame Elish's criticism of relationships between Police Scotland and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, and the force and SPA, Mr Yousaf said it "gives me cause for concern".

He added: "There's only so much I can do as cabinet secretary for justice.

"I am very keen that these relationships are constructive."

He said Dame Elish's recommendation to set up a working group is "hugely important", stating: "If the working group can understand that scrutiny and handling complaints is in the interest of everybody in terms of public confidence in policing then hopefully that working group can start off on a positive footing to help with those relationships."

Police Scotland and the SPA have welcomed Dame Elish's interim report and said they will consider her recommendations.

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