Police Scotland employed top QC over illegal spying row

Police Scotland employed top QC over illegal spying row

Scotland’s police force hired a top QC from south of the border to represent it in the illegal spying scandal.

Jeremy Johnson QC was instructed to represent Police Scotland after officers spied on their own in a bid to identify the source of a journalistic leak over the case of Emma Caldwell, a murdered sex worker.

Last year the single force fell foul of the law when it failed to obtain judicial approval for its mole hunt.

The individuals investigated brought a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in June – where it was told the claims were wilful and not simply accidental.

Craig Sandison QC, for three of the four officers, argued successfully that another police force be given the job of investigating the affair.

Mr Johnson has been described as “phenomenal” and a “class act”. He represented West Midlands Police over the Hillsborough disaster and the same force in hearings relating to the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, which saw 21 people killed by a bomb that is thought to have been planted by the IRA. The case resulted in six men being wrongfully jailed.

Mr Johnson also represented the officers of the Metropolitan Police in cases involving undercover officers’ relationships with female targets.

The silk was also involved in the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dod Al Fayed – where he represented MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

An independent investigation into the scandal is due to take place.

Deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “The Chief Constable Phil Gormley has asked Mike Barton, Chief Constable, Durham Constabulary, to conduct an independent investigation into a number of non-criminal complaints, which relate to matters connected to the breach of communications data protocols and guidance.

“We await the findings of the IPT and will comply with any directions given. Police Scotland has fully accepted that standards fell below those required in this case. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage given the investigation is to be conducted by Chief Constable Barton.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “Police Scotland seem more interested in spending big money on lawyers than focusing on making the changes we need to ensure that this never happens again. Their priorities are all wrong.

“Police Scotland ignored rules that are in place to protect our privacy to try to uncover journalistic sources. This was a clear attack on the freedom of our press.”

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