Pension for convicted police angers ministers

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SCOTTISH POLICE representatives today defended the force's pensions scheme, but admitted it needed "better management" after revelations that an officer convicted of indecent assault had retired with a lucrative financial package.

DC Ian Gibson, 33, of Tayside Police, secured a medical retirement pension worth an estimated pounds 7,000 a year and a lump sum despite being imprisoned for three months for assaulting a lone mother.

Attempts to block the award by Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar and Tayside Police chief constable William Spence failed and the outcome left Scottish Office ministers furious over weaknesses in the rules governing police pensions, the Herald newspaper reported today.

However, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) today said accusations that the system was open to frequent abuse were "completely unfounded", but accepted a tightening up of procedures was needed.

"Any officer who retires from the police service on ill-health or injury grounds does so on the basis of medical criteria and nothing else," said Douglas Keil, general secretary of the SPF. "Retiring on ill health to avoid disciplinary proceedings has been described as commonplace, but nothing could be further from the truth." He said it was an insult to dedicated officers to suggest they were "working the system", but agreed too many officers were retiring on health grounds. "We are firmly of the belief this is caused by the strenuous and often dangerous nature of police work."

The Gibson case helped persuade Home Secretary Jack Straw to order an urgent review of the UK-wide police pensions system. The Government is looking at ways to close loopholes through the Police Pensions Review consultation document.