IF my daughter accused my son of stealing her sweets when they were bairns and I chastised him, he’d rightly wail that it wasn’t fair.
What about his side of the story? Small kids can’t articulate the right to a fair hearing is a central tenet of natural justice, but they know what’s fair – and what isn’t.
Those making accusations, and those defending themselves, need to have their say.
The evidence of both sides can then be assessed impartially and a judgement reached. Did he scoff her sweets? Or was she lying?
It’s such a simple concept, even children “get it”. In playgrounds across Scotland you’ll hear children complaining: “Miss, it’s no fair,” when they encounter an injustice.
So when Phil Gormley resigned as Chief Constable of Police Scotland earlier this month, with five separate complaints investigations ongoing, any chance of a fair hearing – for him, so he could clear his name, or for his accusers so they could substantiate their concerns – ended.
Bully, or innocent victim of malicious complaints?
We’ll never know, because the regulations governing complaints about police in Scotland mean that if an officer retires or resigns, the process halts.
It’s unfair on Gormley, who will forever have a cloud hanging over him.
Equally, it’s unfair on his accusers, who complained in order to have their concerns investigated.
There are no winners. Even Police Scotland lose, because any opportunity for organisational learning from this whole sorry saga is lost.
I’ve spent two decades working in various complaints and professional conduct roles.
The Scottish regulations make no sense, as the only people they protect are the guilty, who can resign simply to escape an investigation and evade justice.
I’m not suggesting this was the case with Phil Gormley, but others have sometimes acted in this way.
That’s why I intend to petition the Scottish Parliament to change the regulations so investigations can continue even if someone leaves the service. There’s already something similar in England and Wales.
It boosts the standing of the police in the eyes of the public, because citizens know police officers accused of gross misconduct will be investigated – even if they resign or retire.
I have great respect for the hard-working officers in Police Scotland and I’d like to see the reputation of policing protected by regulations that ensure the tiny minority of bad apples are brought to justice.
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