Cash-strapped Police Scotland has paid out more than £2million in compensation claims in the last six months. It follows a series of costly legal actions raised against it in the courts and employment tribunals from both staff and members of the public.
The majority of the compensation – about £1.5million – was paid in out-of-court settlements. Twenty-three cases were brought by members of the public against Police Scotland.
Ten involved damage to property and six were as a result of injuries suffered. Twelve actions were raised by police and civilian staff. They included claims of unfair dismissal and sex and disability discrimination.
In total, £2,046,833 was paid in compensation between June and November of last year – the most recent period for which figures are available. Figures obtained by the Sunday Mail under Freedom of Information (FOI) also revealed that legal fees for handling the various actions were about £215,000.
Police Scotland has admitted the final payments could be more. In its FOI response, the force said: “The figures reflect payments made during the period requested. It does not necessarily follow that those payments were the full and final settlement of the claim, which could have happened at a later date.”
The 35 compensation cases involved six in Glasgow, four in Aberdeen and two in Edinburgh. The force has been the subject of a number of high-profile and high-value claims in the last two years.
Last May, former firearms officer Rhona Malone, 43, was awarded £948,000 in damages by an employment tribunal who found she had been the victim of sexism and discrimination.
Police Scotland, who defended the action, also had to pay £118,000 towards her legal costs. Malone, who was based in Edinburgh, raised the case after quitting the force in 2020. The tribunal heard how she received an email saying two female firearms officers shouldn’t be deployed together when there were sufficient men on duty.
Last February, Police Scotland paid almost £400,000 to two ex-administrators of Rangers FC following a failed fraud probe. David Whitehouse was given £75,000 in damages and £235,000 in legal costs. His colleague Paul Clark received up to £75,000 in damages along with a contribution to his legal costs. The two were wrongfully arrested during the police investigation.
In December 2021, it emerged Police Scotland was to pay the family of tragic Lamara Bell more than £1million in compensation. Lamara, 25, and partner John Yuill, 28, died in July 2015 after their car careered down an embankment on the M8 near Stirling.
Despite a call being made to police, it took three days for the force to respond. When officers finally arrived at the scene, they found John dead while mum-of-two Lamara died four days later in hospital. Police Scotland admitted problems with its call-handling system contributed to her death.
Previous figures released also show compensation claims making a big hole in their finances. About £5.5million was paid out between April 2021 and March 2022, compared with £2.6million in the previous 12-month period. In October, Police Scotland said budget cuts could see thousands of staff axed over the next four years.
Tory shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay MSP added: “People living in Scotland’s crime-stricken communities would rather police budgets were spent on the frontline, not on eye-wateringly expensive compensation deals.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Payments are dealt with on a case-by-case basis with a view to securing best value for the public purse.”
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