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25 November 2017, 12:52
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins Is Suspended Over 'Criminal' Allegations, But Denies Any Wrong-Doing
A senior officer at Police Scotland has been suspended from police duties, according to the Scottish Police Authority.
The SPA board said it took the decision after "a number of criminal and misconduct allegations" were brought to its attention by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
The authority can suspend a senior officer on the condition that an effective criminal or misconduct investigation may be prejudiced, or if the allegations would make suspension in the public interest.
In a statement, a spokesman for the SPA said: "Having considered the views of the PIRC, the authority has concluded that both these conditions were satisfied and have taken the necessary steps this afternoon to suspend him from the office of constable.
"The SPA has in addition today formally referred misconduct allegations relating to the senior officer to the PIRC for further investigation having assessed that, if proven, they would constitute gross misconduct.
"The suspension is effective with immediate effect and will be reviewed in four weeks, or if there is a change in circumstances relevant to the suspension."
The Deputy Chief Constable Designate, Iain Livingstone, is taking the steps to ensure effective interim management arrangements are put in place.
The PIRC said it was investigating allegations of criminality against officers serving with Police Scotland.
The allegations were provided anonymously and the commissioner referred them to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
After consideration, the COPFS decided an independent investigation should be carried out by the PIRC and this is now under way.
The commissioner referred the matters to the SPA on October 18.
A PIRC spokesman said: "On 24 November 2017 the SPA referred allegations of gross misconduct about the senior officer to the PIRC and suspended the officer."
A spokesman for the commissioner said: "Following receipt of anonymous allegations of criminality by officers, including a senior officer, serving with Police Scotland, the Commissioner referred the allegations to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
"This was to allow the COPFS to consider whether the criminal allegations should be investigated by the Commissioner.
"The COPFS decided that an independent investigation should be carried out by the PIRC and this is now under way."
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "I can confirm that Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins was suspended today by the Scottish Police Authority.
"In addition, three other officers have been suspended, and two others placed on restricted duties, by Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick.
"This is connection with an investigation by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.
"At this time our focus must remain on continuing to meet the operational challenges that we face each day.
"I will be reviewing the command team structure and in the meantime ACC Nelson Telfer will take on responsibility for the Operational Support portfolio in addition to his existing duties."