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Police watchdog upholds officer's 'data' complaint

POLICE Scotland Chief Constable Stephen House is embroiled in a row after his force breached data protection laws during a probe into a senior officer.

Detective Superintendent Michael Orr complained to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after a personal letter he sent to House ended up with the procurator fiscal.

The watchdog upheld the complaint and the officer's father, former police chief Sir John Orr, has now written a stinging letter to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The spotlight was thrown on Orr after he interviewed a corrupt cop as part of a probe and found himself at the centre of allegations inducements had been made for the officer's co-operation.

No criminal proceedings were ever lodged and Orr was also cleared of misconduct.

In 2011, during the criminal investigation into him, Orr wrote a private letter to House when he was chief constable at the old Strathclyde force. The correspondence included personal medical information.

House did not read the letter, which was passed to his then deputy Neil Richardson then given to the Crown Office.

In his complaint to the ICO, Orr argued that passing the letter to the Crown Office amounted to a data protection breach.

The ICO told this newspaper: "We found the force did breach the Data Protection Act when sharing the person's details with a third party."

In a separate investigation into the issue, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) did not agree the force needed Orr's permission to pass on the letter.

However, Sir John Orr OBE, former chief constable of Strathclyde, has blasted the PIRC. He passed documents to the PIRC as part of the probe, but he said he was never interviewed by the watchdog.

In a letter to MacAskill, he claims that the PIRC did not pass his documents to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which made a final judgment on the case.

He also claims the SPA did not pass on documents to members of its own complaints committee ahead of a key meeting.

Sir John called for an "independent investigation", adding: "It is my professional view that there are serious questions to be asked relative to the competency, functional independence and the necessary, detached, operational interface between these two public bodies [PIRC and SPA].

"The apparent clear failure to properly and rigorously undertake a thorough and wholly objective investigation could reasonably create an impression that the desired outcome is determined and then everything is tailored around it."

Graeme Pearson, Labour's shadow justice secretary, has also written to MacAskill in support of Sir John. A spokesperson for the PIRC declined to comment.

An SPA spokesperson said: "The SPA does not offer comment on individual cases."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "Police Scotland can confirm we have recently received correspondence from the Information Commissioner's Office and its content is currently being considered. It would be inappropriate to comment further."

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