Police (Conduct) (Senior Officers) (Scotland) Regulations 1999.
As a result of the theft of R Hill & Co cattle and the subsequent illegal eviction of R Hill & Co from Powhillon farm, complaints and allegations were made to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary against: Procurator Fiscals, - David Howdle and Bob Morrison, Ministry vets - Kathryn Kerr and Dr Michael Lamont and also Dumfries and Galloway Police force.
Months of correspondence followed between R Hill & Co and senior police officers from Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary until it descended into wrongful accusations by Deputy Chief Constable Bob Ovens, and letters in which he stated that he had passed our correspondence onto the person our complaint was against "for his consideration".
We tried to complain against the conduct of Deputy Chief Constable Bob Ovens, to Dumfries and Galloway's Chief Constable David Strang. We wrote numerous letters to David Strang but never got a response from him. Instead we continually got replies from Deputy Chief Constable Bob Ovens who was allegedly answering on behalf of David Strang. Needless to say the Deputy Chief Constable's response was that our complaint against him was unwarranted. Uncertain as to whether or not our mail was indeed being received by Mr Strang we tried taking our complaint into the Police station and asked a constable to hand the letter to the Chief Constable personally. We received a response two days later from, guess who? Deputy Chief Constable Bob Ovens.
On 2 November 2002 we went back into Loreburn Street police station in Dumfries where the duty Inspector Alan McCulloch took a formal statement following our allegation that it appeared Deputy Chief Constable Bob Ovens was suppressing our complaint against him. Inspector McCulloch forwarded the report onto Chief Inspector Peter McAdam who due to the nature of the complaint referred it to the police authority. At the time we didn't realise but complaints against senior police officers are investigated by the police authority. Something that Bob Ovens certainly didn't inform of us when answering the complaints against himself.
We thought this would at last progress matters and achieve an independent investigation into our complaint. That was until the Head of Legal Services for Dumfries & Galloway Council, Brendan Kearney, became involved. Brendan Kearney in his role as Head of Legal Services advises the police and acts as their legal representative. During the period when R Hill & Co went through the eviction, it was Brendan Kearney who advised the police force with regard to the legality of the eviction. As a result R Hill & Co had had several unpleasant confrontations with him and had previously reported him to the Law Society.
It appeared as though events were about to conspire against us and our concerns were realised when we were notified that Brendan Kearney was leading the preliminary investigation into our complaint and preparing a report for the police authority. We were led to believe that the statement we gave to the police along with the accompanying documentation went straight to the police authority committee for consideration. Under the terms of the Police (Conduct) (Senior Officers) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 nowhere is it stated that we would have to undergo an initial investigation by the council's Head of Legal Services who was heavily involved in events in the lead up to our complaint.
Once proceedings reach the preliminary investigation stage the committee determines whether or not the complaint relates to conduct constituting misconduct as prescribed in the Schedule to the Police (Conduct) (Senior Officers) (Scotland) Regulations 1999.
If the police authority committee considers that it may reasonably be inferred that an act or omission of a senior officer amounts, or may amount, to misconduct, the police authority for the force of which that officer is a constable shall appoint an investigating officer to investigate the matter. If however in accordance with section 5(2), they determine that they require further particulars from the complainant then they could contact us and ask us to provide them with more information. In our case the committee took the unprecedented step of appointing Brendan Kearney who isn’t a member of the police authority committee (as shown below) to investigate the matter upfront. His appointment wasn’t to obtain further particulars following the committee’s review of the complaint but was to prepare a report for the committee on whether or not there was any substance to our allegation.
Police, Fire and Public Protection Committee Membership;
Brian D Conchie (Chairman)
William Little (Vice-chairman)
Andrew O Bell-Irving
Andrew R Campbell
John G Dinwoodie
Grahame A Forster
John W Forteath
Thomas E holmes
Marjory O McQueen
Wilma R Paterson
Ian A Pennie
Michael J Thompson
Brendan Kearney in effect was acting as the ‘investigating officer’. There is only one person according to the Police (Conduct) (Senior Officers) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 who would be required to prepare a report. That person is the investigating officer who reports to the police authority as to whether or not there actually has been any misconduct. The investigating officer is appointed if the police authority receives an allegation of an act which coincides with those listed in the Schedule to the regulation. In our case section 1(e) applied, ‘suppression of complaints’.
Our grievance with the police authority is that their inquiry wasn’t independent. We believe that we had a justifiable allegation against Bob Ovens in that every time we tried to complain to Chief Constable David Strang, Bob Ovens would answer the complaint against him by himself. It could have been easily resolved had David Strang personally responded as he is bound to do but the fact he didn’t raised questions as to whether or not he was informed of the complaint. Our complaint and allegation to the police authority was straight forward and uncomplicated. We believed Bob Ovens may have been suppressing the complaint and as such it was a simple task for the police authority to appoint an investigative officer. Instead they decided to investigate the matter upfront internally and based their decision on a report from Bob Ovens’s legal advisor. To make matters worse they refused to release a copy of Brendan Kearney's report at which point we gave up on the system.
On 27 January 2003 we received the police authorities decision which stated that they were taking no action in relation to our complaint. They also refused to request confirmation from Chief Constable David Strang that he had indeed authorised Bob Ovens to answer on his behalf in relation to the complaint.
Note: We tried to take our complaint to the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). They can not investigate misconduct by senior officers. What is also interesting is that Dumfries and Galloway Police Authority is one of two authorities made up of only its own council representatives. Other police authorities are made up of several different council representatives.