Belfast Telegraph

Murder probe police officers cleared of misconduct allegations

Seven police officers who faced misconduct allegations linked to a murder investigation have been cleared, Police Scotland has said.

An independent investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) found there was "no misconduct on the part of any officer", the Scottish force said, and those involved have been told they can return to active duty.

The investigation will not be published but Police Scotland plans to release an "organisational learning report".

The officers worked for the now-disbanded counter corruption unit (CCU), which was found to have breached guidelines on accessing data in a row linked to journalists' sources regarding the investigation into the murder of Emma Caldwell in 2005.

The officers had been moved to other roles within Police Scotland and placed on restricted duties.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) ruling on the breach followed fears police had been "illegally spying on journalists" and complaints from two serving and two retired officers.

Durham Constabulary was appointed to carry out an independent review and when the allegations of misconduct regarding the seven officers was uncovered, PSNI was asked to investigate these.

Durham Constabulary found it was reasonable to infer the officers could have committed misconduct but a more focused investigation was needed.

Police Scotland said the seven officers had no involvement in the investigation into Ms Caldwell's murder and the probe by PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton focused on an inquiry into allegations information about the murder investigation was "leaked to the media".

The 27-year-old had been working as a prostitute when her body was found in woods near Roberton, South Lanarkshire, and the case remains unsolved.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: "I have reviewed the findings of the enquiry by ACC Hamilton and have determined that there was no misconduct on the part of any of the officers who were investigated.

"Police Scotland acknowledged the IOCCO findings. We accepted that the service did not adhere to new guidelines covering access to communications data and that standards fell below those required.

"Following the IOCCO ruling, Police Scotland asked Durham Constabulary to investigate complaints from four people who were affected by that failure and I subsequently apologised to each of them wholeheartedly and unreservedly for what had happened, and for the impact on them personally.

"It is important to recognise that since this happened in 2015, a significant amount of work has already taken place in Police Scotland to ensure such failings are not repeated."

She said an action plan has been put in place, 35 out of 39 recommendations of a watchdog review of the CCU have been implemented to date and an "organisational learning" report will be published based on the findings of Durham and PSNI reports.

She added: "This has clearly been a long and complicated process but Police Scotland has continued to focus on the on-going investigation into Emma Caldwell's murder.

"We will do everything we can to bring her killer to justice."

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