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Caithness.org News Bulletins -  November 2002

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"I want to start today by putting into context a number of issues that have been affecting the Force for a number of years and which, in my opinion, have adversely affected the public perception of Northern Constabulary.

Can I first of all state that Northern Constabulary is the most successful Police Force in the United Kingdom. We have the highest detection rate.  We have the lowest crime rate.  We continue to police by consent in the urban and rural areas of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and our success is in no small measure due to the unwavering public support that we continue to receive.  I call you here to address a number of issues that have been in the forefront of not only the minds of a number of individuals in this area, but also of interest to you the Media.

Since I came to the Force, just over a year ago, a number of issues remained outstanding which challenged the professionalism of this Force; and constantly undermine the efforts of the Force to move on from issues that, in my mind, have been justly resolved by the Force, by the courts and by the Justice system.

I want to spend a little time reassuring the public in the Highlands and Islands that this Force is skilled in dealing with serious incidents, professional in its approach and compassionate to the victims of crime we deal with on a day to day basis. That said, very few people in this area are the victims of serious crime and therefore do not come into contact with the police on a day to day basis. Since 1996 we have dealt with 88,757 crimes. During that time we have received 481 complaints and it is my belief that we deal with those complaints in a thorough, rigorous and objective manner. In fact, we have received over 1,000 letters of appreciation since 1996 - 500 of those being received in my first year.

When I joined Northern Constabulary in 2001, the Force was already in receipt of a number of complaints from Mr and Mrs MacLeod of Wick whose son Kevin tragically died in an accident in 1997. That included some 60 complaints against individual officers indeed a substantial number of those complaints were made against senior officers who had been asked to investigate complaints Mr and Mrs MacLeod had made. Since the initial police investigation, thousands of hours have been spent on two further criminal investigations and an FAI into the death of Kevin MacLeod.

Nearly six years after the death of Kevin MacLeod, every line of enquiry and allegation has been rigorously and exhaustively examined with each aspect of the criminal investigations being considered and concluded under the guidance of the Procurator Fiscal. Whilst a case such as this is never closed, there are no relevant lines of enquiry outstanding and no evidence to substantiate any allegations of criminality in the death of Kevin MacLeod.

On my arrival last year, I also initiated another enquiry into the handling of the complaints made by Mr and Mrs Macleod. This was not a reinvestigation into Kevin's death as has been mentioned in some newspaper articles.  In the interests of demonstrating fairness and independence, I not anyone else but with the endorsement of the Northern Joint Police Board - asked chief Constable Andrew Cameron of Central Scotland Police to investigate the over sixty complaints made by the family.  I await the results of that enquiry later this year.

Also outstanding was a complaint into the police handling of the road accident involving the equally tragic death of Kevin Gillies in Skye in December 1999.  A number of enquiries have taken place into this incident culminating in a recent Fatal Accident Inquiry.  At this FAI, the findings of the police investigation were not challenged and were endorsed by the Sheriff in her subsequent determination.

Having reviewed each of these incidents it is acknowledged that individual errors did occur and procedures have already been put in place to ensure that certain issues will not re-occur.  Like all forward thinking organisations we have learned from these errors. But we have to put things into perspective these incidents occurred between 3 and 6 years ago.

During the course of the last six years we have successfully investigated over 2,000 sudden and suspicious deaths; and, during the course of this, my first year in post we have received several hundred letters of appreciation from victims of crime with regard to the professionalism, empathy, sensitivity and support displayed by my staff.

It is my belief that the Force should now return to its main function of investigating serious crime.   Northern Constabulary has a duty to investigate and solve serious crime in fact we have a 100% record of solving serious crime in this area.  We will continue to reassure the public that when a crime is reported, it will be investigated fully, to the best of our ability.  However, we are being deflected from the good work that my officers do on a daily basis in the towns and villages throughout this area.

We, as a Force, need to concentrate our efforts on improving our service where it needs to be improved but also build on the successes we have achieved since these incidents occurred some years ago.

We welcome complaints from members of the public who are not satisfied with our service and, like any forward thinking organisation, we will examine and investigate those complaints in order that we can improve the service that we provide to the public. We are no different from any other organisation in that way. However, there comes a time when we have to move on from issues which have been looked at, examined, considered and dealt with.

The wider public want us to provide the core police services of keeping their communities safe and reassuring them that this is the most crime free area in the United Kingdom.  During my tenure of office in the Northern Constabulary, my whole strategic drive will be geared towards that outcome."