A Durham Police chief is set to head-up an independent investigation after Police Scotland breached guidelines on accessing data in a row linked to journalists’ sources.
Phil Gormley, the Scottish force’s Chief Constable, has asked Mike Barton, the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, to launch the probe.
The Scottish force accepts that its actions fell below the required standards in this instance.
The investigation is expected to focus on a number of non-criminal matters arising from the breach and was announced eight months after an official ruling on the issue.
In November, Sir Stanley Burton, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, said in a report that Police Scotland contravened the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Code of Practice on five occasions.
The Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) conducted a review after fears were raised that officers had been “illegally spying on journalists”.
Those five incidents are all said to be linked to the investigation into the murder of prostitute Emma Caldwell in 2005.
Sir Stanley said: “I am satisfied that four individuals were adversely affected by these contraventions and that the failures identified can properly be viewed as reckless.”
An Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) involving the four people whose data was breached - reported to be serving and retired officers - took place in Edinburgh around 10 days ago, in which the complainants were seeking redress.
A ruling stemming from the hearing has not yet been issued.
Nevertheless, Police Scotland confirmed it has asked the Durham force to carry out an independent investigation into “matters arising from a breach of communications data protocols”.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, has asked Mike Barton, Chief Constable, Durham Constabulary, to conduct an independent investigation into a number of non-criminal complaints, which relate to matters connected to the breach of communications data protocols and guidance.
“We await the findings of the IPT and will comply with any directions given.
“Police Scotland has fully accepted that standards fell below those required in this case.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage given the investigation is to be conducted by Chief Constable Barton.”