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Minister accused of 'unlawful' intervention over police chief

From BBC - January 9, 2018

The justice secretary is to update MSPs on the future of Police Scotland's chief constable amid claims he illegally blocked his return to work.

Phil Gormley is on special leave while accusations of gross misconduct against him are investigated.

His lawyers say he was signed off to return to work by police chiefs prior to an "intervention" from ministers.

Michael Matheson is to make a formal statement on Mr Gormley's future at Holyrood on Wednesday.

The Scottish government said the justice secretary had "sought assurances" that the Scottish Police Authority's decision to reinstate the chief constable was made on "a fully-informed basis".

Allegations against Mr Gormley first emerged in July 2017, when he confirmed he was the subject of a probe by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc). This concerned a complaint made by a superintendent in his private office.

He initially stayed on in his post, but went on "special leave" in September that year after a further allegation was made, and has remained off work while a series of other complaints emerged.

A letter from Mr Gormley's lawyers to Holyrood's public audit committee said the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board had "unanimously" signed off on the chief constable returning to work in November 2017.

They said he had been "travelling back to Scotland in order to resume his duties" when he was contacted and told not to come back by then-SPA chief Andrew Flanagan, who had just had a meeting with Mr Matheson.

Can they work together?

Analysis by Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent

Now that we have a single national police force in Scotland, there is only one chief constable.

And that does create a situation where, if the chief constable does not get on with either the bosses at the Scottish Police Authority or indeed the minister, it makes his or her position particularly difficult.

The way in which the set-up is now structured means we are learning about each and every complaint, it seems, that is made against the chief constable.

'Sought assurances'

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