South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed an official review demanding wholesale changes to police complaints handling, following the wrongful arrest of Gatehouse of Fleet man Gary Webb.
Mr Webb was taken from his home by police and spent the night in a police cell, before being driven across country to appear in court and then was remanded in prison, despite neither his passport or fingerprints matching the man police were looking for. He was released four days after being arrested after police and prosecutors realised their mistake.
However, when Mr Webb contacted Police Scotland, his complaint was initially dismissed as a “quality of service issue”, the lowest level of complaint.
A detailed account of his ordeal was included by Dame Elish Angiolini, the author of a landmark report published last week into police complaints handling.
Speaking to The Sunday Post at the weekend, Mr Webb said he was “glad” the report had referenced his case so those responsible are held accountable.
Colin Smyth said, “The travesty of justice Gary faced at the hands of the police and crown office encapsulates in just one appalling case a culture of cover up enabled by the current police complaints system.
“This wasn’t just one mistake. It was the relentless pursuit of an innocent man in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Police clearly had the wrong person, yet no one has been properly held to account.
“I can only imagine the utter trauma Gary faced at losing his liberty and being accused of awful crimes he had no knowledge of, never mind a shred of involvement in. However, to get justice he wasn’t assisted by the complaints process but had to battle against the process, which at times seemed more suited to protecting police malpractice than serving the victims of injustice.
“It would have been understandable if Gary had simply wanted to try to draw a line under his horrendous experience in an effort to move on, but it really is a credit to him and his family that they shared their life changing experience in order to try to ensure such dreadful incidents don’t happen to others.
“The Scottish Government needs to get on and implement the recommendations of Elish Angiolini’s report so we can begin to change not just the complaints process but the culture a created, which so badly let Gary and his family down.
“Gary’s case and this report has exposed the lack of accountability that exists. The public need to have full confidence in our justice system and the overwhelming majority of committed Police officers who serve so diligently do not want to be tarred by the behaviour of a minority. That’s why change is needed”.