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Senior police officer suspended over 'criminal allegations'

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins is one of four officers who have been suspended.

Police: ACC Bernard Higgins joined Strathclyde Police in 1988.
Police: ACC Bernard Higgins joined Strathclyde Police in 1988. © STV

A Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable has been suspended along with three other officers over a number of 'criminal and misconduct allegations'.

Two officers have also been placed on restricted duties as a result of an ongoing inquiry by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).

ACC Bernard Higgins is the only officer who has been named in connection with the probe, which was launched following an anonymous tip-off.

ACC Higgins - who has responsibility for Operational Support, Custody and Criminal Justice divisions - has denied any wrongdoing.

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 PIRC."

The suspension comes just two months after Chief Constable Phil Gormley, who has been the subject of five complaints, was placed on "leave of absence".

DCC Livingstone said: "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."

'The SPA has 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.'
Scottish Police Authority statement

The anonymous allegations were initially brought to the SPA's attention by the PIRC on October 18.

On Friday the SPA board suspended ACC Higgins and referred the misconduct allegations to the PIRC.

An SPA statement said: "The Authority may suspend a senior officer on the condition that an effective criminal or misconduct investigation may be prejudiced, or if the nature of the allegations would make suspension in the public interest.

"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."

'Mr Higgins denies and rejects any allegations of wrongdoing. He will fully cooperate with the investigation. He intends to resume his duties as soon as this matter has been resolved.'
Spokesman for ACC Higgins

The SPA said 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".

The statement concluded: "The Deputy Chief Constable Designate Iain Livingstone has been advised and is taking the necessary steps to ensure effective interim management arrangements are put in place."

A PIRC spokesman 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 underway."

A spokesman for ACC Higgins said: "Mr Higgins denies and rejects any allegations of wrongdoing.

"He will fully cooperate with the investigation.

"He intends to resume his duties as soon as this matter has been resolved."

ACC Higgins joined the then Strathclyde Police in 1988 and would be eligible for retirement next year after completing 30 years' service.

Between 1988 and 2010 he served in uniform posts across Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

In August 2010 ACC Higgins was promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent and appointed Head of the Public Protection Unit.

Within months he was appointed Divisional Commander in charge of Glasgow Central and West Division.

He was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable in January 2013, three months before Police Scotland replaced the old eight-force model.

In September last year ACC Higgins assumed responsibility for Operational Support, Custody and Criminal Justice divisions.

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