Strathclyde Police

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Strathclyde Police, according to its website, is the largest police force in Scotland (Glasgow and West Scotland area) with 8,000 officers and 2,700 police staff, originally formed in 1975.[1]

Infiltration and Environmental protest

In 2009 The Guardian made public the attempts by the police to recruit paid informers from the protest group Plane Stupid. [2] The audio recordings made of the police's conversations raise questions about the policing of protest, especially regarding the right to peaceful protest.

Costs of Intelligence Gathering

Through a Freedom of Information request, The Guardian revealed that Strathclyde Police had almost doubled the annual amount it paid to informants since 2004, when £145,198 was paid. A total of £762,459 was paid between 2004 and 2008. [3] Though not stating the exact figure they were expecting to pay in exchange for information on the workings of Plane Stupid, as heard in The Guardian recordings, they spoke of tens of thousands of pounds. They were also recorded saying that "UK plc can afford more than 20 quid".[3]


Before the recordings went public, lawyers working with Plane Stupid members had been trying to establish the identity of the two police officers involved, and which departments they worked for. As demonstrated by an article in The Guardian, these efforts were fruitless

The lawyers are seeking to establish the identity of the officers, who had access to Strathclyde police station. Initial attempts to identify the men, who also approached other protesters, failed after the force's human resources department said there were no records of officers with their names.[3]

The lawyer Patrick Campbell told The Guardian

"I have very considerable concerns about these events. There appears to be a covert operation that is running in some way with, or using, Strathclyde police's name. There appears to be a concerted effort to turn protesters to informants and possibly infiltrate peaceful protest movements.

"The methods employed are disturbing, and more worrying yet is the lack of any clearly identifiable body responsible for this".[4]

This absence of accountability has lead to speculation as to whether the officers in question could be related to the "confidential intelligence unit" set up by ACPO. [5]

Multiple Attempts of Infiltration

More members of Plane Stupid in Scotland told The Herald Scotland that they had been separately approached by plain clothes police in early 2009.[6] The paper also reported that in addition to environmental protest groups, individuals protesting against the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, have similarly been offered cash for intelligence.[6]

Strathclyde Police Force's Response

When questioned about the use of "covert human intelligence sources", Detective Chief Superintendent Russell Dunn of Strathclyde police, told The Guardian

This is one method used in obtaining information, which allows the force to best deploy resources in line with our priorities. It is a cost-effective means to detect and disrupt criminality and keep people safe."[3]

Questioned in Scottish Parliament

In Scottish Parliament, a Green MSP asked

A number of police forces […] have been caught deploying some pretty dodgy tactics. That has been going on for years, but they are now being caught on camera or audio because of the proliferation of technology in the hands of citizens.
Is the cabinet secretary really saying that he is satisfied with the idea that non-violent, peaceful protesters should be the subject of attempts to bribe, intimidate and threaten? Are there not some tactics that, although they may be legitimate in the pursuance of combating serious crime, are quite inappropriate when it comes to political, non-violent protest?

Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice responded

"It is a matter of balancing the rights of individual citizens with the broader rights of our communities". [7]

A Scottish government spokesman said

"The justice secretary has discussed the matter with Strathclyde Police's assistant chief constable and is satisfied the force has acted proportionately and legitimately".[6]

Complaints Process

Unlike the Metropolitan Police and other England and Wales Police forces who answer to The Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC), complaints against the Scottish Police Forces are brought to the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland (PCCS).[8]

Covert Human Intelligence Sources

A restricted document (partially blanked out) released by Strathclyde Police through a Freedom of Information request states that "the contents of this document outline the standard operating procedures in re.lation to the use of CHIS in what is a sensitive area of covert policing, ostensibly the domain of officers attached to Dedicated Source Handling Units"[9] According to The Authorisation and Management of Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Standard Operating Procedures, obtained through Freedom of Information request CHIS are defined as

a person who establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship with another person for the covert purpose of facilitating anything that

a) covertly uses such relationship to obtain information or to provide access to any information or to another person or b) covertly discloses information obtained by the use of such a relationship or as a consequence of the existence of such a relationship[9]

CHIS Management Structure

According to a restricted document (partially blanked out) released by Strathclyde Police through a Freedom of Information request.

The management of CHIS within Strathclyde Police Force is based on a five-tier structure[9]

1) Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) The Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) is currently George Hamilton. He will be responsible for ensuring that the requirements from the Acts, the Codes of Practice and the Manual of Standards are complied with. 2)Head of Intelligence The Head of Intelligence is the Principal Authorising Officer, is designated as having independent oversight of the CHIS system within the Force. 3)Authorising Officer The Authorising Officer is nominated by the Head of Intelligence and will be responsible for the granting of authorisations for the use and conduct of a CHIS. 4) Controller The Controller will be of inspector rank and will be dedicated to that role. They will be responsible for the maintenance and of the legal and ethical standards in CHIS operations, and the assessments of suitable rewards. 5) Handler The appointed handler will, on behalf of the force, have day-to=day responsibility for dealing with the CHIS. The Handler will report directly to the appointed Controller on CHIS issues and obtain the permission of the Controller for all contacts / meetings with the CHIS.[9]


The acknowledgement of suitable rewards for the CHIS is essential to maintain the commitment of the CHIS and to ensure the Handler/ CHIS relationship remains on a professional footing. The Controller, of inspector rank, will be responsible for the maintenance and of the legal and ethical standards in CHIS operations, and the assessments of suitable rewards.[9]

Out with Scotland and out with the UK

The CHIS deployments out with Scotland but within the UK require careful co-ordination to ensure that they do not extend beyond a 3 week continuous period. Deployments out without the UK require an additional level of authority and consequently early contact should be made with the Central Authorities Bureau in every instance.[9]

The Commissioners

Independent oversight of the CHIS Authorisation is provided by a Surveillance Commissioner under the direction of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, who reports directly to the Prime Minister. The Commissioners are responsible for ensuring that the legislation in relation to the CHIS is being complied with.[9]

Dedicated Source Handling Units

Should additional information be required, officers should contact their respective DSHU (Dedicated Source Handling Units), embedded within each of the Territorial Divisions. Advice can also be obtained from the Central Authorities Bureau of Crime Division Intelligence.[9]

Breakdown of BAA's payments to Strathclyde Police

Obtained through Freedom of Information request is the sum paid by BAA to Strathclyde police in 2009/10. BAA paid Strathclyde Police a total of £2,633,130 in 2009/10, broken down as follows: [10]

Police Costs    2,156,444 
Police Staff Costs 218,306 
Direct Overhead Costs 36,549    
Indirect Overhead Costs 221,831  
£   Total 2,633,130[10]


Executive Team

Stephen House, QPM, Chief Constable Neil Richardson , Deputy Chief Constable George Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable Crime Fiona Taylor, Assistant Chief Constable Operational Support Ruaraidh Nicolson,  Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Strategic Development and Organisational Change Rob Shorthouse , Director of Corporate Communications Allan MacLeod, Director of Finances and Resources John Gillies, Director of Human Resources Ian McPherson, Director of Legal Services[11]

Personnel Russell Dunn, Detective Chief Superintendent, Crime [12]


Strathclyde Police Headquarters
173 Pitt Street

G2 4JS
Telephone (UK) 0141 532 2000 


  1. Strathclyde Police website, About Us Accessed 06/12/10
  2. Mark Vallee and Paul Lewis, 'UK plc can afford more than 20 quid,' the officer said The Guardian Saturday 25 April 2009, accessed 06/12/10
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Paul Lewis Police force paid informants £750,000 in four years The Guardian 8 May 2009, accessed 06/12/10
  4. Paul Lewis Police caught on tape trying to recruit Plane Stupid protester as spy The Guardian 24 April 2009, accessed 06/12/10
  5. Editorial Police and protest: failure of intelligenceThe Guardian 25 April 2009, accessed 06/12/10
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Rob Edwards Revealed: a web of police bids to infiltrate protest groups The Sunday Herald 25 April 2009, accessed 06/12/10
  7. Scottish Parliament debates, Scottish Executive Question Time 7 May 2009, accessed 07/12/10
  8. Strathclyde Police website Complaints Process accessed 10/01/11
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Strathclyde Police, The Authorisation and Management of Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Standard Operating Procedures, version 3.0 Aug 08,C15/ SOP, 'Restricted' obtained through Freedom of Information request, partially blanked out
  10. 10.0 10.1 Freedom of Information, FOI from Strathclyde Police - BAA contract Scribd, Page 3, accessed 09/03/11
  11. Strathclyde Police website, About Us Our Staff Accessed 06/12/10
  12. Strathclyde Police Website MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE FORCE EXECUTIVE 11.08.10 Accessed 06/12/10