Police compensation payouts double to highest level in six years

Police on duty at a football match in Glasgow.

By Bill Heaney  

Police compensation payouts will top £5.5 million this year, the highest amount in at least six years – and more than double the compensation paid out in 2021.

The figures – revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Conservatives  – show that payouts from Public Liability Claims alone have risen to £1.7million.

That’s more than triple the amount paid out for this type of claim last year.

There have been numerous high-profile compensation claims paid out by Police Scotland in the last year, including to the family of Lamara Bell who was left to die by the roadside on the M9 after police failed to respond to a callout.

Rhona Malone, a former firearms police officer who was found by a tribunal to have been victimised by a ‘boys’ club’ in Edinburgh Firearms Unit was paid out nearly £1 million.

The police complaints system, which has contributed to the large nature of payouts, was set up by the SNP Government as part of its Police Scotland reforms. Its failings were exposed in a report by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, right.

Russell Findlay MSP has written to Police Scotland’s Chief Constable to clarify whether the police budget will suffer as a result of the rise in compensation payouts.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Community Safety Russell Findlay MSP, said:“The huge rise in police compensation payouts will come as a shock to the public.

“At a time when police budgets are under severe strain, the force simply cannot afford costly payouts due to large compensation claims.

“Police Scotland have been failed by a complaints system that was set up by the SNP Government and was ripped to shreds by Dame Elish Angiolini in her lengthy report on the issue.

“Changes are needed from within the police and they are making progress on that but the SNP need to start working to fix the broken system too.

“I have written to Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, left, so he can clarify public concerns about any impacts on the Police Scotland budget, as well as the wider work being done to reduce the need for such payments in the future.”

Meanwhile, police compensation payments have hit a record high in 2022 – with more than £5.5 million due to be paid out. A freedom of information request from Police Scotland confirmed that in 2022, £5,534,802.10 is due to be paid out in compensation. This is higher than any other year since 2015 and nearly a £3 million increase on the year before, where £2.6 million in compensation was paid out. (Police Scotland FOI, 13 September 2022, Attached; Daily Record, 10 January 2020, link).

Employer liability claims are the biggest reason for the rise with more than £2 million alone paid out in 2022There was £2,022,869.50 paid out by Police Scotland due to employer liability claims in 2022 – a rise of more than £1 million on the previous year. (Police Scotland FOI, 13 September 2022, Attached).

Public liability claims increased more than three-fold in just one year.In 2022, Police Scotland had to pay out £1,683,360.13 due to public liability claims. In 2021, the amount was £492,171.42. (Police Scotland FOI, 13 September 2022, Attached).

Employment tribunal claims increased by almost 900%. In 2021, only £37,000 in employment tribunal claims was paid out, compared to £360,301.60 in 2022 so far. This is an increase of 873% (Police Scotland FOI, 13 September 2022, Attached).

In the Rhona Malone case, Police Scotland were ordered to pay nearly £1 million in damages. Rhona Malone was a former firearms police officer who was awarded £948,000 after an employment tribunal found she had been victimised due to her sex. The Edinburgh firearms unit was said to be an ‘absolute boys club’ that was ‘horrific’. (The Guardian, 13 May 2022, link).

In the Lamara Bell case, Police Scotland were ordered to pay more than £1 million in compensation. Lamara Bell, who died following a crash on the M9, was left stranded three days after someone first reported the crash to the police. Police Scotland were found to be partially culpable and ordered to pay more than £1 million in compensation to the family of Lamara Bell. (BBC News, 2 December 2021, link).

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