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New police watchdog will be led by former CID chief

AN EXPERT team of investigators is being assembled by a former CID boss as part of a watchdog for Scotland's new single police force.

Retired detective chief superintendent John Mitchell hopes to recruit the best investigators from a range of industries to ensure confidence in the Police Service of Scotland when it comes into force on April 1.

Mr Mitchell has been appointed as Director of Investigations for the Police Investigation and Review Commission (PIRC), which will be a more powerful version of the existing Police Complaints Commission for Scotland.

The commission will be responsible for investigating criminal and serious misconduct allegations against the police, as well as investigating deaths with police involvement.

Currently, other police forces perform this function, but when the eight forces unite next year this will no longer be possible.

In his first interview since his appointment last month, Mr Mitchell, who retired as head of CID for Strathclyde Police in July, claimed he is confident his team will be ready to hit the ground running in April.

He said: "There will be 23 investigators including myself and we're right in the midst of the recruitment phase at the moment.

"It goes without saying that we're looking to recruit the best investigators across a spectrum of experience and knowledge, and not necessarily from a policing background.

"We're looking to recruit people even from private industry. There are very good investigators in the insurance industry, as well as in the Health and Safety Executive and HM Revenue and Customs, and these are the people we would like to become involved.

"We need to ensure we throw the net wide and get a good cross section of investigative ability and mould it into an independent team."

The commission will carry out investigations into criminal allegations and deaths on behalf of the Crown Office, who will then decide whether or not to prosecute or hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

The body will also carry out investigations into misconduct at the request of the force's chief constable or the Scottish Police Authority, who will take appropriate action depending on the outcome of the inquiry.

Commissioner John McNeill will also be able to instruct independent inquiries if he feels there is a matter of public interest.

Mr Mitchell added he believes public confidence in the police will be bolstered by the body due to its independence and specialist investigative skills.

He said: "Ultimately our role is to ensure that investigations are effective and the independent aspect we bring to it will give the general public a trust in what we're trying to do.

"I would hope that in the long run they will see it as a better process than what currently exists.

"It is still a work in process, but we're building on our investigative capacity and understanding of what the Police and Fire Reform Act will allow us to do to ensure we have the processes, procedures and structures in place and we have the right people to make it work."

The director said his team will draw on resources, such as forensic services, from the Scottish Police Authority, as well as looking to experts in other fields, such as IT, outwith the police as required.

He said: "It's only right and proper that if that is the appropriate route to take an investigation down, we're in a position to tap into the skills that are out there."

Mr Mitchell added: "I'm absolutely sure that come April 1, we'll be in a strong position to hit the ground running and face whatever challenges await us.

"We'll have the right people, the act will be in place, we'll be strong and use it correctly and we'll be ready to run."

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