OFFICERS in an elite police unit may have used bogus intelligence to spy on journalists, according to an explosive report shared with MSPs last night.

The report by Durham Constabulary said some of the activity within Police Scotland’s now defunct Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) was “of great concern”.

It partially upheld an allegation that officers had “acted dishonestly by wilfully and deliberately manipulating intelligence”.

In 2015, the CCU accessed journalistic material without judicial permission in a bid to find out if serving and retired officers had talked to a Sunday newspaper about the unsolved 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell.

This was unlawful and Police Scotland asked Durham Constabulary to consider non-criminal complaints into the case.

Durham completed its probe earlier this year and handed its findings to Police Scotland and its oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority.

Redacted versions of the reports have now been shared with Holyrood’s justice sub-committee of policing which is investigating the CCU’s behaviour.

The Durham report to Police Scotland says CCU officers may have used bogus intelligence to access journalistic material under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

It says one RIPA application contained an account of information being passed between two men that was “untrue and a clear misrepresentation of the facts”.

It said: “This investigation has found that there are serious concerns relating to the misuse of intelligence and furtherance of the associated RIPA applications.”

It added that, while it was “unequivocal” that intelligence was “not accurately reflected” in two RIPA applications, the reasons were unclear, and a full misconduct probe was needed.

Last month it emerged that in light of the Durham report the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was investigating seven former CCU officers for gross misconduct.

The PSNI delivered its findings to Allan Spiers, the Police Scotland assistant chief constable in charge of professionalism and assurance, on Wednesday.

In a letter to the committee, ACC Spiers said: “This report is highly detailed and complex and as such, until I fully consider the details contained within it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

ACC Spiers also said he received a report from Northumbria Police on Monday about the handling of complaints against the CCU, and was also considering this.

He said he would provide MSPs with redacted versions of both new reports by March.

Committee convener Mary Fee MSP, Convener of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, said: “This latest information to come to light in the long running saga of Police Scotland's Counter Corruption Unit needs to be digested and then scrutinised by MSPs.

"As we head towards the new year, I think one safe prediction for 2018 is that more senior police officers will be appearing before committees of the Scottish Parliament to explain themselves."