Police chiefs criticised over suspended officer payouts

Police chiefs have come under criticism
Police chiefs have come under criticism
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POLICE chiefs have been criticised for paying out £470,000 to officers suspended from work while they are investigated for potential wrongdoing.

Eight officers are currently suspended from Lothian and Borders Police on full pay while internal probes are carried out.

Among them is Chief Inspector Allison Strachan, who has been paid more than £80,000 despite being at home for the past 18 months, according to new figures obtained under freedom of information laws.

The 50-year-old was suspended in October 2010 and was last month fined £400 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for breaking the Data Protection Act.

CI Strachan pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining classified information about individuals at various police stations in the force area.

Her salary is thought to be around £53,000 and suspended officers continue to receive pension contributions.

Altogether, 24 police officers across Scotland have been removed from duties but continue to receive full pay.

Critics say it is right that officers remain on full pay while investigations are carried out, but said in many cases proceedings drag on for years.

One reason for delays is that if the officer is facing criminal charges the force must wait until court proceedings are concluded until it can begin its own internal disciplinary action.

Iain Whyte, convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board, said: “There has been some concern about the length of time officers are suspended for before disciplinary action is concluded. While we press the force to deal with these as quickly as possible, in some cases when there are legal proceedings pending it is down to the procurator fiscal.”

Colleagues at Lothian and Borders Police’s professional standards unit have recently began investigating CI Strachan for a period of service between November 2006 and July 2008.

They could only begin to do so after the court case ended last month.

In August 2010, Lothian and Borders Police confirmed they were investigating claims that CI Strachan was involved in inappropriate behaviour with regard to her personal life.

It is understood she was cleared of those allegations, but then she was suspended over the Data Protection Act claims.

David McLetchie, the Tory justice spokesman, said in some cases it may be possible to transfer officers to other duties.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said criminal proceedings being conducted outwith the hands of a police force could increase the length of time officers are suspended for.