Rebecca Gray, Reporter / Thursday 27 August 2015 / News
SIR Stephen House is to stand down early as Scotland’s most senior police officer.
Police Scotland Chief Constable made the announcement this morning after a spate of controversies surrounding the single force.
He will leave his post in three months time, the Herald understands.
Sir Stephen, who was previously the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, has been the target of a barrage of criticism in recent months.
He was expected to leave the position when his four year contract expired in September of next year.
The 57-year-old said recently said he was pleased with his record in charge of Police Scotland.
He said: “If, at the start of Police Scotland, people had said, ‘This is what you would achieve, this is where you would have got things wrong’, then, I would have taken where we are.”
However, he has come under increasing pressure in recent months over his handling of certain issues, including armed officers on patrol and Police Scotland’s stop and search policy.
Critics have also hit out at Sir Stephen over the death of Lamara Bell and John Yuill (pictured above) who lay in a crashed car for three days despite a call being made to police.
Martin Bell, brother of M9 crash victim Lamara, reportedly said he was “over the moon” at Sir Stephen’s announcement.
There has also been controversy surrounding the death of Sheku Bayoh, from Fife, who died while in police custody.
The Bayoh’s family lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said:
“After a catalogue of disasters it had become inevitable that Stephen House would have to resign.
The Bayoh family takes no pleasure in the departure of Stephen House but believe they had a right to demand answers of him following the death in custody of Sheku Bayoh.
“In recent months Police Scotland appeared answerable to no one, accountable to no one and acted as our masters rather than public servants. That now needs to change.
“It is sad to see an individual who has devoted his whole life to policing and keeping our communities safe to have to depart in such a manner.
Ironically I suspect that in years to come the creation of Police Scotland will be seen as Mr House’s greatest achievement but for me as a campaigner and a lawyer, his delivery of zero tolerance on hate crime and domestic violence are perhaps his greatest achievements.”
Mr Anwar said Sir Stephen had become a “convenient scapegoat” for all the problems in Police Scotland.
He added: “It would be extremely dangerous if the Scottish Government now believe that the problems are resolved by the departure of the Chief Constable or if he is replaced by someone that does not instil confidence in police officers or the general public.”
Sir Stephen oversaw the amalgamation of Scotland’s eight regional police forces into the single national force.
Police Scotland, which marked its second anniversary, is the second largest in the UK.
During his time, he coordinated the policing of last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
He made the announcement at the Scottish Police Authority board meeting in Stirling this morning.
The SPA maintain oversight of Police Scotland, the single force which was launched in April 2013.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation said:
“Sir Stephen has made a monumental contribution to policing. He has delivered the most significant public sector restructuring in a generation against a background of a brutal austerity agenda.
“He has delivered some very impressive policing results on crimes of violence, particularly domestic violence.
“I have little doubt that history will prove to be kinder to Sir Stephen than the current commentary which at times has been vindictive and deeply personal.
“Many people feared that a single police service could be susceptible to political interference and those who have called for the head of the chief constable as some form of trophy need to consider
In recent weeks, Sir Stephen had faced repeated calls to resign.
However, Scotland First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, insisted she had full confidence in Scotland’s most senior police officer.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who previously called on Sir Stephen to “change his ways” or go, said today: “Decapitating the Chief Constable won’t solve the deep rooted problems in Police Scotland.
“A new chief carrying on as if nothing is wrong will cement the problems rather than solve them.
“The early resignation of Chief Constable Stephen House reveals the chaos at the heart of Police Scotland.
“Yet, this isn’t about the job of one man at the top but recovering the fortunes of the wider police force which is in the doldrums.
“Ultimately the SNP Government must accept responsibility for this chaos.
“They rammed through the centralisation of our police service despite warnings. “They set up the toothless Scottish Police Authority.
“They appointed the Chief Constable.
“With the departure of the Chief Constable their is an urgent need for a wider inquiry into the operation of Police Scotland.
“Rank and file police officers and civilian staff are crying out for a fresh start.”
As chairman of the former Strathclyde Police Board, Paul Rooney was the key figure in bringing Sir Stephen from the Met to Scotland.
The senior Labour councillor, now a member of the Scottish Police Authority, put the Chief Constable’s departure in the context of the recent problems engulfing his force.
Mr Rooney said: “In my years within policing, I do not recall such a turbulent time as in recent months with two significant tragedies. However, I believe Sir Stephen’s personal determination and professionalism to address the issues behind these incidents has been honourable.
“Sir Stephen’s contribution to policing in Scotland over the last 8 years cannot be understated. He has been an outstanding Chief Constable in both legacy Strathclyde at the helm of Police Scotland.
“Under his leadership we have witnessed the biggest public sector reform in decades while continuing to deliver significant reductions in crime. I have no doubt Sir Stephen’s success at making Scotland a safer place to live and work will be a major factor in his legacy. I wish him well for the future.”