THE Government has been urged to ditch a “tainted” watchdog report into undercover policing after one of the contributors was caught up in a row about a covert unit at a previous force.

Retired detective Stephen Whitelock was one of the individuals who, while he worked for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), helped give undercover policing a clean bill of health.

However, Whitelock was named in a court judgment last month about a controversy at one of his former forces and campaigners have demanded the HMICS report is voided.

Undercover policing has been under media and political scrutiny in recent years over the practices of two controversial units, now disbanded, that were based south of the Border.

Officers were found to have spied on peaceful campaign groups, had sex with women they spied on, and taken the names of dead babies as their cover names.

Some faked mental health problems to disappear from their targets’ lives and, in one case, an officer fathered a child with an activist who did not know his real identity. So-called “spy cops” such as the notorious Mark Kennedy, also visited Scotland as part of their duties.

The scandal prompted the Scottish Government to ask HMICS to carry out a review of undercover policing, which went back to 2000.

However, critics believed the final report skimmed the surface of covert policing and provided no real insight into the activities of officers who operated north of the Border.

The review also attracted criticism as one of the team members was Whitelock, who used to be deputy director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, a specialist force that had an undercover unit.

The HMICS report made a few references to the now-defunct SCDEA, but never analysed its operations in any great length.

Whitelock’s suitability for a role on the HMICS review has again been questioned following a court judgement by Lord Brailsford into the SCDEA’s covert unit.

A former undercover officer won the court action after complaining about her treatment at the Agency’s special operations unit (SOU).

She told the court how, in 2011, she visited a covert mail box operated by a fellow detective and discovered unopened mail containing bank statements, phone bills and letters from debt collectors.

The same officer then went to the premises she and another person had been using, only to find that it had been ransacked, with boxes and bags unopened and other materials shredded.

After taking some of the documentation back to the SCDEA, she said she and a colleague were told to purchase a garden incinerator and petrol and burn them.

Although she was the one who flagged up the wrongdoing, the female officer was suspended from her role as an undercover officer. The judge’s ruling, which found in the woman’s favour on the issue of liability, also addressed Whitelock’s role in her removal:

“My conclusion on the basis of the foregoing is that a decision was taken by Ch Supt Whitelock that the pursuer should not, after discovery of the events in relation to [another officer’s] mismanagement, ever work in SOU again. That decision was taken apparently without consultation with any other person.”

It added: “Moreover those concerns had not been presented to the pursuer in order to afford her an opportunity to comment thereon or, for that matter, to seek to rebut. These considerations would, of themselves, in my view constitute a lack of fair treatment in the context of an employee employer relationship.”

The judge continued: “After Ch Supt Whitelock had reached his decision the pursuer was wrongfully, and in my view deliberately, told that her move from SOU was temporary. She was not told that she would not return to that posting. I am bound to conclude that she was deliberately misled in relation to this matter. Again I am of the view that that factor constitutes a lack of fair treatment.”

Whitelock recently retired from HMICS. Tilly Gifford, an environmentalist who was targeted by police surveillance in 2009, described the HMICS review as “invalid on several counts”.

She said: “Due to Whitelock’s central involvement in this damning [court] case, with his judgment and decision-making being called into question, it is absolutely clear that the HMICS report is seriously tainted.”

“I hope the government now regards this report as void and instead orders a new and fully independent Scottish inquiry.”

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “The revelations cast a serious shadow of doubt over the HMICS investigation into undercover in policing in Scotland. Investigation by an external force into both the specific issues and to look at the robustness of HMIC undercover policing report is now required as a bare minimum response. We would urge Humza Yousaf to agree to our calls, and initiate a full and independent inquiry into all historic undercover policing in Scotland.”

An HMICS spokesperson said: “HMICS considers that our strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland, published in February 2018, is comprehensive, well-evidenced and fulfilled the specific direction received from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

“HMICS provided an independent view of the safeguards in place by Police Scotland in respect of undercover policing. In terms of legacy forces, including the SCDEA, our remit was only to establish the extent and scale of their undercover policing operations.

“The review was led by the HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary at the time, assisted by a number of people with experience in this specialist area of policing, including staff from within HMICS and others independent of policing in Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As set out in the published report, and in evidence given to the cross-party Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament, Derek Penman  the previous HM Chief Inspector, led this independent review personally and the consideration of historical deployments was carried out by an associate inspector from HMIC in England and Wales."