An update – The Alex Salmond debacle
Judith Mackinnon left her post in July 2017 and took up employment in a newly created post as “Head of People Advice for The Scottish Government”.
She reported to Nicola Richards, who had been appointed to her new role as “Director of People”. It was she who appointed MacKinnon to be the “Investigating Officer”
An early priority was to assist the process of drafting a complaint procedure and McKinnon would surely have been guided by urgent recommendations contained in the January 2017 Police Authority audit report of a similar complaint procedure she had introduced when employed in a senior personnel role by the Authority.
One particular recommendation comes to mind.
“Misconduct Regulations state that the subject officer must receive immediate formal notification of the misconduct allegation once it has been determined that an investigation is required and an investigator has been appointed but before the start of an investigation so that the subject officer can be provided with an opportunity to address it if it is their wish.”
But recent revelations are uncovering a “can of worms”
It has been revealed that on 29 November 2017, Richards and MacKinnon discussed with “Ms. A”, (one of the women who went on to make a formal complaint of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond in January 2018) the content of a draft procedure they were proposing to introduce so that harassment complaints could be actioned against former Ministers, in retrospect.
The document was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat to be retyped.
On 1 December 2017, Richards, emailed James Hynd, the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat;
“Would you be able to send me the latest version of the process? I agreed with “Perm Sec” that I would test it with some key individuals.”
Hynd, replied within the day, attaching the latest version of the draft procedure as requested. He wrote;
“Here you are.”
Richards and MacKinnon met again with “Ms. A” on 5 December 2017 and again discussed the content of the draft procedure then sought “Ms. A” confirmation that the procedures would have helped her at the time and how to put in place safeguards for the future.
Helped her with what??
Later, on 5 December 2017, Richards met with Permanent Secretary, Evans following which she worked late into the evening making changes to the document.
Just before midnight that day, she distributed the revamped document to James Hynd, “Head of the Cabinet secretariat”, MacKinnon and an unnamed lawyer. Her email stated;
“As discussed today, I’ve made some revisions to the process”
There was evidently some urgency in moving the matter forward to a conclusion, confirmed in yet another email in which Richards wrote;
“I’ve updated the timeline – and this is the final version of the policy I’ve sent to Perm Sec.”
The “air” of finality clearly suggested that the civil servant team, supported by legal opinion were confident it would be signed off and introduced.
Nicola Sturgeon approved the introduction of the procedure on 20 December 2017.
The decision to appoint an “investigating officer” should not have been instructed by Richards on her own!!!! But did she? Assuming the procedures had been adjusted following the Police Authority recommendations she would have been required to sign off the investigation process with one other, a more senior officer. That would be Evans.
And yet another titbit: On 25 August 2020, in evidence given, on oath, to the Salmond inquiry, James Hynd, “Head of the Cabinet Secretariat” stated:
“To be clear – if I was not earlier – the first that I heard about any allegations was, I think, on 24 August 2018, when there were press reports. I knew nothing before then about any complainer or anybody raising concerns. I knew nothing about the appointment of any investigating officer or about any sharing of the draft procedure with any individuals.”
Well, well, well !!!!!!!!! The worm turns!!!
The Police Authority and Judith Mackinnon
MacKinnon was Head of Human Resources governance for the Scottish Police Authority between 2015 & 2017.
Her prime responsibility was to provide assurance to the Authority that they were a responsible employer and a sustainable organization, achieving this goal through the introduction of efficient personnel policies aiding the professional development of management and staff.
The first years following the formation of the Authority were plagued by complaints of harassment and wrongdoing in the force, primarily led by the Unionist Press who seized on every incident, no matter the rights and wrongs of it to undermine the SNP Government.
The Government was forced to order an independent audit of the Authority’s human resources and other departments that had been subject to criticism.
In January 2017 the Scottish Police Authority Complaints Audit was published: (https://pirc.scot/media/4447/spa-audit-report-2017.pdf)
The Undernoted concerns were recorded
A lack of transparency and clarity surrounding the complaints processes.
The length of time taken to deal with complaints and to undertake preliminary assessments in misconduct allegations.
A lack of communication between the Authority and senior officers who were the subjects of complaint.
Communication between the Authority and senior officers was inconsistent. In some instances, subject officers had been invited to address allegations/complaints whilst in others, an invitation had not been extended.
On a number of occasions, the first officers became aware complaints had been made about them was through media coverage.
Responsibility for ordering a preliminary assessment of misconduct allegations rested with a manager who had little or no relevant knowledge or experience and expertise.
The complaint handling procedure in place is neither effective nor efficient and lacks transparency and unclear guidance resulted in organizational confusion as to whether a matter should be dealt with as a “relevant”.
The average time taken to conclude complaints and preliminary misconduct assessments is excessive and disproportionate to the level of inquiry undertaken or required of the Authority.
Decisions of the Authority lacked clarity and transparency and in many cases did not contain sufficient explanation to demonstrate how a decision had been reached.
Notifying senior officers about misconduct allegations and ‘relevant complaints’ made about them was inconsistent. In some instances, senior officers were not notified but in other cases, they were notified but sometimes at the beginning or on occasions at the end of the process.
Whilst there is no statutory requirement to notify a senior officer about an allegation or to ask him/her to comment on an allegation until after an assessment has been carried out and an appropriate investigator has been appointed.
But the subject officer must receive formal notification of a misconduct allegation once it has been determined that an investigation is required and an investigator has been appointed and before the start of any investigation.
Susan Deacon, (SPA chair), said the report identified a “number of important areas” requiring the authority’s attention. And it was essential that the Authority’s systems and practices were robust and worked effectively to maintain public confidence and trust.
Addressing the concerns of senior officers, procedures would be revised requiring more than one “deciding” officer to ensure key decisions were taken ensuring better oversight of the complaints process.