Demands for inquiry into police fiasco that cost taxpayer thousands

The Falkirk Herald has been reporting on the police fiasco for four years
The Falkirk Herald has been reporting on the police fiasco for four years

Almost four years after serious allegations of misconduct were made against a senior police officer the case has officially been dropped.

But the cost of keeping Assistant Chief Constable John Mauger on paid leave for three years and meeting hefty legal fees is expected to exceed £1 million.

Now politicians are calling for an explanation and inquiry into how this situation was allowed to go on for so long before a resolution was reached.

Mr Mauger joined the now defunct Central Scotland Police in April 2009. But 14 months later, after supposed clashes with then Chief Constable Kevin Smith and amid claims of insubordination and inefficiency, he was put on ‘gardening leave’.

He finally returned to work last July as an ACC with the newly-formed Police Scotland, although not one of the six with a role in its executive.

However, all allegations of misconduct were finally dismissed on May 2 by the Scottish Police Authority finally lifting the threat hanging over the officer – but leaving the taxpayer to foot a large bill.

‘The public deserve an explanation into the handling’

The shadow over John Mauger’s reputation may have been lifted but the bad taste remains. Almost four years after he first faced a barrage of accusations alleging misconduct, his employer has finally decided not to proceed any further.

This senior police officer will no longer have to face a misconduct hearing to answer claims which included that he brought the former Central Scotland Police force into discredit and had neglected his duty.

After 25 years of service which, given he had risen to the rank of Assistant Chief Constable, most would assume had been unblemished, he moved to Scotland where, almost from his first days, he appears to have encountered conflict.

This finally culminated in a number of reports to his then employer, Central Scotland Joint Police Board, from Chief Constable Kevin Smith. This was deemed strange by some as it was understood that Mr Mauger had been the chief’s choice for the role as his number three and had even encouraged him to apply for the post.

Board members took a decision to investigate the string of complaints and on June 30, 2010, only 14 months after taking up his post, he was placed on what Councillor George Matchett, board convener and a former senior officer with the force, coined as ‘gardening leave’.

For three years Mr Mauger remained in London, unable to do the job he had dedicated his life to, while legal teams acting for both sides became embroiled in attempts to find a solution.

Their bills, being paid by the taxpayer, continued to spiral.

Then came the news last June that the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), now his employers since the inception of the single force in April last year, had apparently managed to bring the matter to a conclusion and he would return to work.

However, although he retained his rank as assistant chief constable, he did not have a role as one of the six ACCs in the force’s executive. It is understood that he is now involved in “project work”.

But a source said Mr Mauger is being kept well away from frontline duties and is unable to put his wealth of experience to use.

For four years a wall of silence has been thrown up around the inquiry with those involved effectively gagged from speaking to The Falkirk Herald.

But with this week’s news that the officer has no case to answer, calls have come for a full explanation.

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “Given the length of time that this matter has been dragging on and the considerable amount of tax payers money involved, the public deserve an explanation from Police Scotland on how this whole affair has been handled.”

His comments were echoed by Falkirk East colleague Angus MacDonald, who said: “This issue has dragged on for an unacceptable period of time. However, if it is the case that the allegations have been dropped then there is very little further action that can be taken.

“I would be keen to know if Police Scotland intend to investigate the whole process and the chain of events – however, I am disappointed the issue was not properly addressed at the time by the former Central Scotland Joint Police Board.

The SPA declined to comment on an individual case.

The Falkirk Herald is now asking the question: how much has this cost the taxpayer and who is responsible?