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Police chief apologises to family

19 December 07 17:34 GMT

A chief constable has apologised to a family over the way his force handled the case of a man whose body was found in Wick harbour.

Ian Latimer, of Northern Constabulary, said sorry to the parents of Kevin McLeod and told them another force may review the case.

Mr Latimer was ordered to take the step after a damning report into how the 24-year-old's death was investigated.

Mr McLeod's body was found in Wick harbour in Caithness in February 1997.

Police said his death was accidental but his family believed he was murdered and have consistently criticised the force over its investigation.

Last month the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland said Northern Constabulary behaved with "institutional arrogance" in the way it handled complaints from Mr McLeod's parents, Hugh and June McLeod.

It ordered Mr Latimer to apologise in person to his relatives.

Family spokesman Allan McLeod, the dead man's uncle, described the meeting with Mr Latimer as "positive" and "open".

He met the chief constable along with Mr McLeod's parents, John Thurso MP, justice campaigner Iain McKie and family friend Keith Banks.

The 49-year-old said Mr Latimer offered them an "unreserved apology for his force's failings".

"The family only had one request, which was for Kevin's death to be reviewed by another police force," Mr McLeod said.

New investigation

He added that the chief constable was considering the request and would be contacting the Crown Office to discuss the possibility.

Mr McLeod said the family were "optimistic" that a new investigation would take place.

Mr Latimer also told those at the meeting that Mr McLeod's case had led to a major rethink in the way Northern Constabulary handles such cases.

"He said due to Kevin's case, the police had rewritten the crime management handbook," Mr McLeod said.

"This is a unique event for a chief constable to apologise personally to a family."

'Institutional arrogance'

But he added: "While we welcome and accept this belated apology, it will not dampen the family's determination to bring those we believe killed Kevin to justice.

"Then and only then will the family be able to move forward."

A sheriff also concluded the death was accidental.

But in his report, complaints commissioner Jim Martin said the service provided by Northern Constabulary to the McLeod family "fell well short of the mark".

He added: "Northern Constabulary appears at times to have lost sight of the fact that it is dealing with a bereaved family who are looking for answers to difficult questions.

"I believe the attitude taken towards this family, who I also criticise in my report, has smacked at times of institutional arrogance and has on occasion been influenced by personal feelings rather than professional judgment."

His report also criticised the McLeod family for the tone of some of its complaints.

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