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Abuse victim: Police complaints reform is a first step but so many more are needed

© Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COMAnnie Hirdman
Annie Hirdman

A woman abused by her police constable partner has welcomed moves to ensure investigations into officers accused of misconduct continue, even if they quit.

The Scottish Government last week confirmed a public consultation on the issue had backed the proposal and said those responses would now be used to shape legislation.

The move, which would see ­proceedings continue even if an officer leaves during an investigation into their conduct, was among the recommendations of Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review into how police complaints and allegations of misconduct should be handled.

There was also broad public ­support for a statutory ethical code for officers, a requirement for the police to participate openly and promptly in investigations, and enhanced powers for the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

Annie Hirdman, who was assaulted by her police officer partner over a six-year period, was part of a group of women who met Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown last month to demand reforms to root out misogyny in Police Scotland. She welcomed the announcement, saying: “It’s a first step in the right direction but much more still needs to be done to curtail the activities of predator officers.

“Progress and change are far too slow, leaving many still at risk because the system continues to allow abusive officers to hide in plain sight, while victims wait years for the resolution of investigations and complaints.”

Former officers demand reform to root out misogyny in Police Scotland

Hirdman, from Motherwell, joined female officers Gemma MacRae, Karen Harper, Rhona Malone and others to press the justice secretary to introduce meaningful reform. She told Brown how her former partner, PC Fraser Ross, accessed police records to check her out after they first met, and discovered she was a vulnerable victim of previous domestic abuse.

Despite reporting Ross’s actions, she was told no action would be taken over the data breach because there was no proof Ross knew what he did was wrong. Ross was found guilty of abuse but spared jail last year and placed on a community payback order.

Hirdman said: “Fraser Ross always boasted he could do what he wanted, and if I called the police I’d be the one in a jail cell and I’d lose my son. I’ve spent three-and-a-half years struggling to get answers to complaints over how police handled the case, and I’m still being fobbed off.”

She is also concerned little has been done to introduce psychological screening with continuing checks on officers.

Scottish Conservative Shadow ­Community Safety Minister Russell Findlay said: “Two years ago, the Dame Elish Angiolini report laid bare a broken police complaints system that fails the public and the majority of good officers. It’s shameful around half of her recommendations are still not implemented.”

‘Bullied by a Boys’ Club, betrayed by my force’: Police whistleblower breaks silence to expose misogyny

Since 2017, 166 Police Scotland officers and special constables have been accused of 245 sexual offences.

Speaking about the consultation, Brown said he valued the commitment of Scotland’s dedicated police officers and their work, adding: “In the very small minority of incidents that do require investigation this should be done in an open and transparent way that also respects the rights of the police concerned.

“We will carefully consider all the consultation responses, to help us shape improvements to Scotland’s system of police complaints and misconduct handling.”

Police Scotland previously stated there was no place within the force for misogyny or abusive behaviour.