Police Scotland's former chief constable allegedly told to 'hire a Scot' as his deputy ... Phil Gormley warned there would be 'political problems' if he did not ... The order left him 'deeply troubled' ... But what did PIRC and the SPA do about the discrimination claim? ... SNP government ministers face questions about alleged meddling in policing
FORMER chief constable Phil Gormley was warned there could be ‘political problems’ if a Scottish candidate was not hired as one of his deputies.
The former head of Police Scotland claims that the order came from Andrew Flanagan, then chairman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), during a discussion about a vacant post for a deputy chief constable.
During the meeting last September, Gormley was allegedly told ‘there would be major presentational and political problems if either of the two internal (Scottish) candidates were passed over given how this would impact on the proportion of senior officers who were of Scottish national origin’.
In a document seen by The Times newspaper, Gormley said: “He [Flanagan] indicated that Scottish Government were party to these concerns. As a senior officer of English national origin myself, this concerned me. The national origin of any candidate (from within the United Kingdom) should have no bearing on the selection process.
“This issue and the very mention of the national origin of senior officers gave rise to an inference that issues of race may be at play in relation to my own position at Police Scotland and the difficulties I have faced there.”
The conversation left him ‘deeply troubled’ and with ‘serious concerns’ including the apparent suggestion that he had a predetermined view of the selection process.
He said: “It appeared to me that inappropriate external influence was being applied to this process and that the national origin of the candidates was (quite improperly) to be a factor in the selection process.
“As an officer of English national origin myself, this plainly concerned me. It appeared possible that concerns we're being raised with SCPOSA [Scottish Chief Police Officers Staff Association] by its members in order to delay the process.”
Gormley’s claims were made to the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner last October as they examined bullying allegations made against him by Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham.
Flanagan is alleged to have raised the issue of the need for a Scottish deputy with Gormley at 9am on September 6.
At 5.30pm, Gormley told members of his executive team about the 'odd meeting'.
Then, at 6.30pm, Flanagan returned to see Gormley to tell him that another bullying complaint had been made against him.
The complaint was from ACC Malcolm Graham, one of the two Scottish applicants for the deputy post.
Gormley went on voluntary leave two days later and was due to return to work in November but was blocked, allegedly after the intervention of then justice minister Michael Matheson.
He told PIRC that Graham’s allegations had ‘no legitimate basis’ and that ‘something more orchestrated must be going on’.
When Gormley eventually quit Police Scotland in February, investigations into multiple bullying allegations, which he denied, were dropped and he has since taken up a senior post with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in England.
Scottish Conservative shadow Justice Secretary Liam Kerr said: “These are quite extraordinary allegations from the former chief constable and they require urgent investigation.
“We surely cannot have a situation where senior figures in public life in Scotland allege they are being vetted based on their background or where they come from in the UK.
“Mr Gormley's statement also raises serious questions for the SNP government. He says the government were 'party' to the same concerns as the SPA. Were ministers involved, and if so, what pressure did they try to exert?
"We've said all along that the events surrounding Mr Gormley's departure as chief constable should not be swept under the carpet to spare the blushes of ministers and senior police figures. With these revelations, it's quite clear that we need full transparency over this matter, now."
The deputy’s recruitment was put on hold with Northern Irish officer Will Kerr, who was considered the frontrunner, eventually being appointed last month.
In January, Gormley’s wife Claire Gormely, a retired senior officer, said: “It is very easy to attack the outsider, Phil doesn’t have a Scottish accent, he was born in Surrey not Stirling.”
Gormley declined to comment but his solicitor David Morgan of Burness Paull said: “Mr Gormley has been very open throughout the process although restricted in what he could say at the time while undergoing formal procedures.
“I am confident that he would co-operate with any official request from the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament.”
Flanagan was also unavailable for comment.
RESPONSE FROM PIRC
We asked PIRC whether any investigation of Gormely’s claims of discrimination were investigated and, if so, the outcome.
A PIRC spokesman said: "Our investigators submitted their reports in connection with the allegations about Mr Gormley to the SPA in February."
RESPONSE FROM SPA
We asked the SPA whether any investigation of Gormely’s claims of discrimination were investigated and, if so, the outcome.
An SPA spokeswoman said: "The SPA does not comment on specific complaints. All complaints are handled in line with the authority's statutory functions."
RESPONSE FROM SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT
We asked the Scottish Government whether it would like to provide any response to Gormely’s claims of discrimination, whether they were investigated and, if so, the outcome.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The appointment of senior officers is a matter for the SPA.”
A version of this report was first published in The Times newspaper on October 25, 2018