Scotland's most senior police officer to step down following intense criticism of his force

Sir Stephen House will quit as Chief Constable of Police Scotland in December

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The Independent Online

Scotland’s most senior police officer is to step down from the job before Christmas after weeks of intense criticism about the way his force has handled a series of controversial incidents, it has been announced.

Sir Stephen House said he would quit as Chief Constable of Police Scotland at the start of December, around nine months earlier than originally planned. He has faced calls to resign over his force’s handing of last month’s M9 crash, which saw a couple lie undiscovered by the side of the motorway for three days after an emergency call was not properly logged.

Police Scotland has also been criticised over its excessive use of stop and search tactics as well as the number of armed officers seen on the country’s streets. The force is also being investigated over the death of 31-year-old Sheku Bayoh in police custody and has been accused of illegally monitoring communications between journalists and their contacts.

Sir Stephen told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in Stirling there was “never going to be a convenient time” for him to move on. “But after nearly 35 years as a police officer, with the last nine as a chief constable in Scotland, I believe the time is right for me to try and take up new challenges and also to allow the start of a process to recruit my successor,” he added.

Paying tribute to “the men and women of Police Scotland”, he said he had been “immensely proud” to be the first chief constable of the force. Sir Stephen oversaw the creation of Police Scotland in April 2013, when the country’s eight regional police forces were amalgamated into one.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, issued a statement thanking Sir Stephen for his “dedicated” service. She added: “Strong policing has ensured recorded crime is at a 40 year low. Sir Stephen provided leadership at a crucial time and his strong focus on tackling violent crime made a major contribution to that achievement.”

But Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said the force’s problems extended “far beyond the Chief Constable” and urged ministers to take responsibility for the failings and begin the process of reform.