Top cop's blue light 'taxi'

Top cop's blue light 'taxi'

November 27, 2023

Top cop’s blue light ‘taxi’

  • Police car used 999 lights to pick up Chief Constable Jo Farrell then give her lift home to England 

The on-duty traffic officer who took Scotland’s police chief on a ‘taxpayer-funded taxi ride’ to England switched on the car’s blue lights, the Mail can reveal.

Jo Farrell’s driver turned on the 999 lights for part of his journey to a rendezvous with Ms Farrell in central Edinburgh – before taking her to her family home in the Northumberland area.

The misuse of blue lights – which can only be deployed in a genuine emergency – can lead to disciplinary action being taken against officers.

However, sources said that in this case it would be highly unlikely the officer concerned would be reprimanded – given he was chauffeuring the Chief Constable. 

The car was also used to take a senior officer from Durham Constabulary, who had been providing advice to Ms Farrell as she tackles a cash crisis at Police Scotland, to Gateshead on Tyneside.

Chief Constable Jo Farrell apologised last week for an ‘error of judgment’ in commandeering the unmarked car after her train was cancelled

After this drop-off, the traffic officer headed back north in stormy conditions.

The fresh revelations heap further pressure on Ms Farrell, who earns £248,724 a year, after she apologised last week for an ‘error of judgment’ in commandeering the unmarked car after her train was cancelled.

The trip took the officer away from his regular duties for six hours – at a time when officer numbers are at a 15-year low.

Last night Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: ‘Alleged misuse of blue lights to provide the chief with a free taxi adds to the need for meaningful scrutiny. The SNP Government created the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – which is supposed to hold Police Scotland to account on behalf of the public.

‘Yet ministers seem satisfied with the SPA’s strange “nothing to see here” response to this incident.’

The Mail has been told the driver put on his vehicle’s blue light at one stage on his way to pick up the chief to avoid a build-up of traffic. The standard operating procedure for driver training for Police Scotland states: ‘If it is judged that police attendance is necessary, it is vital the response is proportionate to the urgency of the incident and the needs/vulnerability of those affected.’

Insiders have suggested he was keen not to keep the Chief Constable waiting. Ms Farrell’s normal driver had taken her to Edinburgh Waverley to catch a 4pm train home to Northumberland.

The chief contacted her private office after discovering her train had been cancelled and it was arranged for a traffic officer to pick her up – as her regular driver was by then off duty. Ms Farrell paid out of her own pocket to refuel the car during the trip south.

Chief Constable Jo Farrell was driven to Northumberland by an on-duty traffic officer

A senior Police Scotland insider said the trip had been a ‘taxpayer-funded taxi ride’.

We can also reveal the identity of the senior officer from Durham Constabulary – where Ms Farrell was previously Chief Constable – who accompanied her.

Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley, who earns £109,575 a year, has responsibility for finance and other areas at Durham. 

He was giving unpaid advice to Ms Farrell on issues at Police Scotland such as reducing bureaucracy, and his presence was notified to the SPA.

The trip left J division – covering Lothian and the Borders – with just one traffic officer on shift.

READ MORE: Police chief’s ‘taxi ride’ to England in patrol car 

A policing insider said: ‘There is a lot of factionalism – some of Jo Farrell’s colleagues clearly want her to fail. But she has brilliant ideas and deserves to succeed – people who back her are hoping this will not finish her.’ 

Ms Farrell will make her first public statement as Chief Constable at an SPA public board meeting on Thursday, when the police budget will come under scrutiny.

Last night Police Scotland re-issued Ms Farrell’s statement on the row. She said: ‘I have apologised for this error of judgment.’

An SPA spokesman said: ‘Our chair has discussed this with the Chief Constable. We consider the matter closed.’

A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: ‘An experienced member of staff attended Police Scotland to offer general advice to the Chief Constable.’

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