ONE of Scotland’s most senior police officers has denied any wrongdoing as he was suspended amid an investigation into a “number of criminal and misconduct allegations.” 

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins has been relieved of his duties by the Scottish Police Authority, the public body which holds Police Scotland to account.

He said he would cooperate with the investigation but issued a statement in which he rejected any allegations of wrongdoing. 

The decision to suspend him was taken by the SPA Board after a number of criminal and misconduct allegations were brought to the Authority’s attention by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).

The SPA said: "Having considered the views of the PIRC, the authority has concluded that both these conditions were satisfied and have taken the necessary steps this afternoon to suspend him from the office of constable.

"The SPA has in addition today formally referred misconduct allegations relating to the senior officer to the PIRC for further investigation having assessed that, if proven, they would constitute gross misconduct.

"The suspension is effective with immediate effect and will be reviewed in four weeks, or if there is a change in circumstances relevant to the suspension.

"The Deputy Chief Constable Designate, Iain Livingstone, has been advised and is taking the necessary steps to ensure effective interim management arrangements are put in place."

PIRC said the allegations had been made anonysmously and were later referred to the Crown Office, which decided an independent investigation should be carried out by the police watchdog.  A spokesman for the Commissioner said: “Following receipt of anonymous allegations of criminality by officers, including a senior officer, serving with Police Scotland, the Commissioner referred the allegations to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

“This was to allow the COPFS to consider whether the criminal allegations should be investigated by the Commissioner.

“The COPFS decided that an independent investigation should be carried out by the PIRC and this is now under way.”

A spokesman for ACC Bernard Higgins said: "Mr Higgins denies and rejects any allegations of wrongdoing. 

"He will fully cooperate with the investigation. He intends to resume his duties as soon as this matter has been resolved."