Jo Farrell to replace Sir Iain Livingstone as Chief Constable of Police Scotland
By Bill Heaney
The first-ever female chief constable of Police Scotland has been announced, with Jo Farrell taking on the role. She will succeed Sir Iain Livingstone, who is stepping down this August after six years in the job. Ms Farrell is currently in charge of Durham Constabulary.
Ms Farrell was appointed by the Scottish Police Authority. Justice Secretary Angela Constance, pictured left, who approved the appointment, said the top English officer “has shown she has the skills needed to lead the service”.
She will have responsibility for 23,000 officers and staff in what is the UK’s second largest police force. She will also inherit a number of major issues, not least the ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud in the SNP’s finances. Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon became the third high-profile figure to be arrested at the weekend as part of the probe.
Ms Constance also paid tribute to the outgoing chief constable, saying: “I also want to pay tribute to Sir Iain Livingstone, pictured right, for his bold leadership and wider service to keeping communities safe during a lengthy, distinguished career in policing. He leaves Police Scotland in great shape after leading it through unprecedented times.”
The national force was launched by the SNP in 2013, merging Scotland’s eight regional police forces in a bid to save money. Ms Farrell will be the fourth chief constable in just over a decade.
The first, Sir Stephen House, who lived in Helensburgh while he was posted here, stepped down in 2015 the wake of the M9 scandal, when Lamara Bell lay dying in a crashed car at the side of the motorway after a call from a member of the public was not followed up. He was followed by Philip Gormley, who lasted until 2018 when he too quit after a bullying probe.
Born in Merseyside, Ms Farrell moved to Cambridgeshire at the age of 15. After completing a degree in Business at Sheffield Polytechnic in 1991, she achieved her childhood ambition by joining the police and becoming a Constable in Cambridge. She spent five years in the city centre beat before promotion.
In 2002, she joined Northumbria Police, initially as a Chief Inspector, and was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable, with responsibility for response and neighbourhood policing as well as the communications department.
Ms Farrell joined Durham Constabulary in November 2016 and has commanded the policing of a number of high profile events and incidents in recent years.
She took the top job in June 2019, becoming the first woman to hold the post of Chief Constable in the force’s 180-year history.
On a national level, she works on behalf of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in the areas of information management, criminal justice file quality and supports the Crimestoppers charity.
Ms Farrell is married to a retired police officer and has two stepsons and a daughter. Away from work, she enjoys family life, cooking and keeping fit.
Responding to Police Scotland announcing the appointment of its first female chief constable, Jo Farrell, who will replace Sir Iain Livingstone in August, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “I welcome Jo Farrell to her new position, and I wish her every success in leading Scotland’s police service.
“The SNP’s botched centralisation of Scottish policing created a raft of challenges. It’s clear from past staff surveys that they feel the service and its resources are stretched to the limit. Officers and staff are also picking up the pieces of Scotland’s mental health crisis and desperately need more specialists working alongside them.
LibDems’ Wendy Chamberlain and Liam McArthur look forward to big changes.
“Jo Farrell’s appointment is a chance to inject localism back into the service, boost mental health support and protect policing budgets to keep communities safe.”
Reflecting on the challenges ahead for Police Scotland and Sir Iain Livingstone’s remarks that the service is “institutionally discriminatory and racist,” Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader and former police officer Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “The outgoing comments from Sir Iain Livingstone point to profound problems at the heart of Scottish policing.
“I would like to see Jo Farrell adopting the sensible recommendations proposed by Mark Hamilton’s recent report into the culture and operating practices of Police Scotland, including a review into the recruitment and selection process for the firearms unit.
“We also need to see officers prevented from exiting the service or retiring before disciplinary or misconduct procedures can take effect.”
Meanwhile, Police Scotland has spent more than half a million pounds on staffing costs for Operation Branchform since the investigation was set-up almost two years ago.
A dedicated team of detectives is investigating how the SNP spent donations intended for a second independence referendum campaign.
It has led to three senior Nationalists – including Nicola Sturgeon – being quizzed by the police before being later released without charge.
A Freedom of Information request showed Police Scotland had spent an estimated £43,981.03 on overtime costs in connection with the investigation – on top of an estimated £551,662.53 on salary costs up to the end of March this year.
And the row continued to bubble away today when Alex Salmond weighed into the debate surround Humza Yousaf’s refusal to suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP. She was arrested and questioned by police as part of a probe into the party’s finances on Sunday.
Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon with local MPs Martin Docherty Hughes and FM Humza Yousaf.
The Alba Party leader – who was the SNP’s first first minister and gave both of his successors their start in politics – said Ms Sturgeon is in “severe difficulties” but added that “everybody is entitled to the presumption of innocence”.
In an interview with STV, he added: “Humza’s line on this of not suspending Nicola is perfectly defensible, it’s a perfectly consistent line to have, but the difficulty of course is that it’s not the line that Nicola took with a whole range of people and therefore he’s going to be asked very awkward questions about it.”
That “whole range of people” includes Mr Salmond himself, who resigned from the SNP altogether in August 2018 after two people accused him of sexually harassing them while he was in office. At the time, Ms Sturgeon said she agreed with the decision and said the party was “bigger than any one person”.