A top murder detective has accused one of his deputy chief constables of "misconduct" in the scandal of Police Scotland illegally spying on journalists’ sources.

David Moran, who was unlawfully targeted by the single force, has come forward to claim that DCC Neil Richardson may have “made up” some of the “outrageous” evidence he gave to a Holyrood committee.

The Detective Inspector added that he been the "victim of a crime" by the force and claimed Richardson had made statements which were “extremely injurious to my reputation”.

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Police forces must get judicial approval before using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to flush out reporters’ sources.

However, the IOCCO watchdog ruled in November that Police Scotland had committed five “reckless” breaches of the rules.

The force's Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) had used its spying powers to see if four serving and former police officers had provided the Sunday Mail with information about the unsolved murder of sex worker Emma Caldwell.

The revelations triggered a probe by MSPs on the Holyrood Justice Committee, which heard evidence from Richardson, who has responsibility for the CCU.

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Moran, an officer with over thirty years service and who works in the Murder Squad, has now revealed himself to be one of the four individuals targeted by his own force.

In a letter to the Committee, which is on the Holyrood website, he said: “I have subsequently been able to piece together what I believe to be a fairly accurate, if not complete, picture of the illegal course of conduct against me.”

Moran wrote that the breaches had been wilful, rather than just reckless: “I do not believe the actions carried out by Police Scotland to have been reckless as determined by IOCCO and I do not believe they had full possession of the facts when reaching that conclusion.”

“Consequently I have made a complaint to the Police and the Procurator Fiscal through my solicitor Peter Watson that I believe I am a victim of a crime and that the course of conduct followed was wilful and therefore a criminal action.”

After the Sunday Mail article was published in April, Moran self-declared his friendship with a retired officer, Gerard Gallacher, who had been quoted in the tabloid.

Moran also made it clear at the time that he had “no knowledge” of the original Caldwell police investigation.

Nonetheless, he was under suspicion: “There was no reason to investigate me and indeed it was based on an unsubstantiated and invented intelligence case.”

“For the record I am outraged that I should have been investigated in this manner without cause and, to add insult to injury, illegally.”

HeraldScotland: DCC Neil Richardson. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Picture: DCC Richardson

Moran expressed his fury with Richardson over the evidence he gave to the Committee:

“Neil Richardson made statements which are extremely injurious to my reputation and I believe him to be guilty of misconduct in misrepresenting to you what happened in respect of the Police investigation into me.

He continued: “In his statement to the Committee he attempted to partially justify Police Scotland’s actions by stating that I had leaked information to Gerard Gallacher. This was outrageous and completely false. He could have had no evidence of this as it simply wasn’t the case.

“At best he was completely misinformed or at worst it was made up. Either way he has severely scarred my reputation publicly.”

In his evidence to the Committee, Richardson did not name Moran, but said of the police leak probe:

“As I said, there was a breach during a murder inquiry from a police officer to a retired police officer, and the focus was on the serving officer in the murder squad...”

In his letter to MSPs, Moran said: “Of the four I am the only one who could fit the description as being in the ‘Murder Squad’.

He concluded: "I will happily assist the Committee in any way in this matter and look forward to hearing from you."

Richardson is the second highest-ranking officer in the country after chief constable Phil Gormley.

He was a contender to succeed Sir Stephen House, but the spying row reportedly harmed his chances.

MSP John Finnie said: “This letter graphically illustrates that Police Scotland have some way to go in not only reassuring the public but also in addressing deep-seated concerns of staff.”

“Those who sought to suppress legitimate press enquiries and, when caught out, the subsequent political scrutiny may think Parliament’s imminent dissolution will see an end to interest in this matter. They are going to be sorely disappointed.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We are aware of the correspondence and are reviewing its content including the allegations.

“Due to the potential of proceedings in relation to an Investigatory Powers Tribunal and the fact that a complaint has been made to the police in relation to this matter, we cannot comment at this time.”