Apr 252014

Serious questions need to be answered about how Grampian Police – now Police Scotland handled an incident last June. It’s time for a reminder of what happened during the Siege of Heathryfold, and to let people know that the search for answers is far from over. By Suzanne Kelly.

The man who wasn’t there.


George Copland’s home which was at the centre of an armed seige on June 7 2013

In June of last year, witnesses claimed a man with a gun was inside a flat in Heathryfold, Aberdeen.
This was however an empty flat – a flat far from the main road and at the end of a row of two houses accessible by a gate – you would have had to be very close to the windows to have seen anything inside, and no explanation has yet been offered as to what the witnesses were doing and how they conceivably came to the conclusion a man with a gun was inside.

Even though there are  many legal reasons for people to have guns (hunting is legal, so are pellet guns), the police decided the answer was to surround the building, cordon off streets, bring in specialist teams, and lay siege to an empty property. [Those of you with hunting rifles, shooting range pistols, starter’s guns had best take note].

They entered, and finding no one home, clearly giving the gunman story the lie, the police decided to ransack the flat from top to bottom. Perhaps the gunman was  hiding in the medicine chest or in the CD rack. This search seems to have happened before they finally spoke to George Copland, the property owner, on the telephone.

Seeing his flat on television surrounded by armed men, and getting a call telling him to meet the police (and not saying he could bring a friend, adviser or lawyer) George, who has a history known to the police of physical and mental health issues, was quite understandably frightened, and he declined to meet them.

He says the police were already inside his building; they say they only entered after he refused to meet them. This is one of at least half a dozen questions that need to be answered. But clearly as Copland wasn’t in his home, he couldn’t have been the hunted gunman.

The man with the feather duster gun.

Still, the police were not content with the search results (could it be they didn’t want to look silly for deploying a fair bit of back up at what must have been considerable expense for a hoax?). Days later they burst Copland’s girlfriend’s door down in a dawn raid, and took Copland into custody (whether or not this was a formal arrest is unknown to this day).

Searched, put into a boiler suit, possibly with medication withheld from him (another issue requiring clarification), he was allegedly asked to say that a feather duster he owned could have looked like a gun (the Sun newspaper ran a story on this).

the police have so far refused to release any information on the case

George’s account of seeing a doctor at the time differs with what the police said happened. It is certain they knew he had mental health issues before the siege; it is certain they didn’t let  him have an adviser, friend or lawyer during the long hours of his detention.

Copland also says that before his release from custody, one of the police named one of the witnesses – an interesting move on their part, and one which like so many issues needs to be examined. Aberdeen Voice knows the identity of the person allegedly named to Copland, and it is debatable whether they would have made a credible witness.

The Right to Remain Silent – well, for Police Scotland anyway

Left with several eggs on their face, the police have so far refused to release any information on the case. A Freedom of Information request was lodged but information, as well as a reasonable request for compensation, was denied.

Copland was not up to the stress or the challenge of dealing with the FOI process; he asked for assistance. He authorised an Aberdeen Voice reporter to make enquiries of the police on his behalf.  Two different signed, detailed permission letters from George bearing his address and signature were submitted to the police by email, and one original letter was delivered as well.

The police still refused to release information or contemplate compensation, and several different correspondents from the police side got involved. Some correspondence was done by email; some via the police’s online comments form. A paralegal refused to use email; and correspondence flew back and forth for months.

Finally, when Police Scotland refused the FOI request, a request for a review of how they handled the FOI request was made. This was submitted on their online form as no email address was given to make an appeal to.

The first time the request for a review was sent, it somehow was never received by the police.

It’s almost as if they had something to hide

The online form was used a second time to request the review. The request for the review advised the police to ask if they needed further information.

This second request via the online form was received, and in due course a letter came, saying a review found they had handled the FOI request perfectly.

The police said among other things that they did not have sufficient permission from George Copland for Aberdeen Voice to be given information. Did they email him, write to him or phone him to corroborate that all the submitted permission forms were genuine? No.

Does it then seem as if Police Scotland are implying that Aberdeen Voice were seeking personal data without authorisation? Yes.

After months of trying to get information and jumping through various hoops, the police refused to explain what they did and why. (It’s almost as if they had something to hide).

At that stage of the labyrinthine process, it was time to bring the entire matter to the Information Commissioner for them to consider. If the previous correspondence with the police had been confusing, the eventual Information Commissioner’s outcome was something else altogether.

It could be called Kafkaesque, but the bizarre decision, possibly unprecedented, also has a Catch 22 element.

Kafka steps in

All the correspondence was summarised, and the important items were sent to the Information Commissioner’s office – this included the request for the review and the letter giving the review outcome. So far, so good.

On 18 April Aberdeen Voice’s reporter received a letter in the post saying the Information Commissioner would not look into this case. The reason? The request sent to the police was not specific enough.

The police had the request to review how they handled this Freedom of Information request. They were told to revert if they needed more specifics. They didn’t. They went ahead and held a review upholding their actions in withholding the facts from George Copland and Aberdeen Voice.

that dialogue aspect of FOI requests doesn’t seem to exist now

Now, months later, someone has decided that the request for the review which was held wasn’t quite good enough. Kafka might have come up with this.

Information Commissioner – has the rulebook changed?

When Aberdeen Voice was involved in a FOI commission investigation into property dealings between Stewart Milne and Aberdeen City Council, we were informed every step of the way as to what the council was claiming and what they were telling the information commissioner’s office.

AV was able to counter points successfully and in the end the City had to release information.

Somehow that dialogue aspect of FOI requests doesn’t seem to exist now. Any first year law student would be making good points as to how holding a review pretty much gives validation to the request for a review.

AV had no such opportunity to put up the case for law, logic and common sense. We will be asking how often this defence is used when refusing to investigate FOI matters. It certainly seems the rules  have changed.

Carte Blanche

The police are no strangers to requests for information which wind up going to the Information Commissioner. However, the police do not have to release any info which may make the public lose confidence in them.

This is basically giving the police carte blanche to do as they please with complete immunity and no fear of accountability getting in their way. With public confidence in the police already low, surely this aspect of how the Information Commissioner operates must be reviewed and changed.

It would be interesting to know how many times this public confidence exemption has been used by the  police in past FOI appeals to the Commissioner.

More questions likely to remain unanswered.

Whose idea was it to claim the request for a review was invalid – the Police, the Information Commissioner’s office – or both?

Why did they hold a review if they didn’t need to?

Why did it take until 15 April for anyone to claim that the review which was held didn’t need to be held?

If the request was not valid, why did Police Scotland hold the review in the first place?

Since the request for review, as submitted online (no documents could be attached,) offered to supply further details for the review request if needed, why didn’t anyone point out that there wasn’t sufficient grounds given for a review?

How could the police possibly claim they didn’t have enough valid permission to release the requested information at the review stage when they could have had clarification at any time?

Does holding a review validate the request for a review?

Was the way the Siege of Heathryfold handled reasonable?  Was the way George Copland was treated legal, fair and suitable for someone with known health issues?

To come back months after the review was held, and claim that the request for the review was invalid makes police Scotland appear either to be disingenuous, or disorganised. Why did they hold a review if they didn’t need to? It’s almost as if someone higher up got wind of this, and decided to try and derail it.

Surely not.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

Perhaps the police involved in this incident may not want to breathe that sigh of relief just yet. Information will indeed still be sought by various other avenues.

Oh, and if the police are interested, the  Police Complaints Commission has been formally asked to look into this entire incident as well. Time will tell what comes of that.

More info – previous Voice articles.


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Mar 282014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service; a fortnight ago I got tonsillitis, which I found over-rated.  Had to spend a week in bed (without any BrewDog at all – it was awful);  I’d been struck down just after another marvellous Moorings music moment with Kirk Brandon and Dave Sharp.

Thankfully I was back on my feet in time for the Aberdeen Jazz festival.  I caught both Gerry Jablonski sets, the first being in the Tunnels.  The Tunnels are surprisingly dark for some reason, and the atmosphere was very intimate – I felt as if I were in a New Orleans nightclub at midnight.

Jablonski was on great form, and an hour later, the band were doing another set on the Green, which for some reason was lighter as well as nicely crowded, considering half the city had driven to Glasgow for the football. 

Those who spent the afternoon on the Green had a choice selection of music, but the Jablonski band pretty much stole the day (and best wishes to the drummer, who wasn’t well enough to perform, and many thanks to the excellent stand in, DW).

Later that night the Joe Louis Walker Band was at the Blue Lamp; it was a rare treat to see blues done with such regal authority.  I couldn’t figure out why no merchandise was on offer, but I’ll soon remedy that with a trip to itunes.  Finally, this past Saturday I went with Julie to see Deborah Bonham at the Green Hotel in Mundell Music’s magical Backstage Bar.  Another intimate show, and a rare evening.  More on that elsewhere.

I also took in the Great Tapestry of Scotland currently on show at the Art Gallery; it is a phenomenal labour of love, and there are opportunities to add your own stitches to one of the panels. This massive series of beautifully stitched tapestries commemorates the good, the bad and the ugly moments in Scottish history; a section dedicated to those accused of witchcraft and executed really does show Scotland warts and all.

Then there was Sunday’s victory parade; congratulations to AFC on its well-deserved victory (as opposed to Arsenal’s wholly undeserved dissection at Chelsea’s hands, only made possible by ref. Marriner, who has basically admitted now that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.  Perhaps he’ll be applying for the newly-vacated Chief Executive of Aberdeen post, except for his admission he made a mistake.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing

But the real reason I’ve not had a chance to write was that I’ve been very busy with my financial advisors. Since the Tories announced they’ll turn our massive budget deficit into a small surplus in record time, I’m wondering what to do with my new found wealth. We’ll all be a penny better off when  buying pints of beer, and can put even more money into tax-free savings.

Since we’ve all been able to save tonnes of money these past years, I thought I better get some financial advice on what to do with this massive cash windfall heading my way. Perhaps we’ve raised so much money between the bedroom tax and ATOS getting lazy ill people to work that the budget deficit will just go away.

They’ve managed to find some money in the treasury:-

£140m extra for flood defence repairs and maintenance

£200m made available to fix potholes

I think it’s a great idea that the Government will start thinking about potential floods; what a disaster flooding would be. I wonder where they got this flood defence idea from? If I can dredge up any facts on this flood defence budget, that will be more dredging than the ConDems ever did. Dredging rivers was deemed too expensive to do by some beancounter somewhere, and funding was cut. Nice to know we saved some money for a few years without any comeback.

As to the £200m for pothole repair, Result!

Only a spoilsport would point out that Which Magazine estimates the cost of fixing Scotland’s roads would be £12.93 billion. Old Susannah is not much of a mathematician, but what if we took some defence funds and fixed up some of our own wee social and infrastructure problems, and then got on with bombing the middle east for democratic reasons with the leftover money? Just a thought.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing, and unless you can blow up the planet a good few dozen times, no one takes you seriously anymore. The cuts have hit the neediest defence contractors to a serious degree; I’ll see if I can find a way for concerned citizens to donate to the military.

Of course there might not be cash in our armed forces for things like proper gear for people on the front lines in our little police actions around the world, but someone somewhere is making some money. Here are the grim facts:-

“Last month defence secretary Philip Hammond claimed to have balanced the budget for defence equipment over the ten years to 2022, outlining plans to spend almost £160 billion on new vehicles and kit [sad to say, but £160 billion just ain’t what it used to be – Susannah].

“The programme includes £35.8billion for submarines, including a replacement for the Trident nuclear system; £18.5billion on warplanes and drones; and £17.4billion for surface ships, including new aircraft carriers.

“Another £8 billion has been left unallocated to cover the risks of cost overruns. The programme meant that “for the first time in a generation the Armed Forces will have a sustainable equipment plan,” Mr Hammond said.” [hard to believe there could be cost overruns in the military – OS]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Trident-spending-to-accounts for third-of-defence-budget

Again, I’m no mathematician (so I may apply for a job in government’s budget office), but £35.8 billion would buy quite a few Granite Webs at £140 million each.  It might even be enough to keep Valerie Watts looking suitably sun kissed for a year. And with that, it’s time for a few definitions, and a fitting send off for Watts-going-on.

Grit and Dynamism: (English Phrase used to describe the departing Watts) 1.  Grit – sandy, irritating substance.  2.  Dynamism – .

Alas, farewell, cheerio, bye-bye Valerie Watts. Was it our failure to win you a second City of Culture nomination that drove you from the Granite City? Was it hard to keep your natural tan going in our climate? Alas, we may never know.

The SNP are for some reason blaming their political opponents. Kevin Stewart said:-

“Mrs Watts came to Aberdeen with vision, dynamism and real grit and her resignation is a great loss to our city. I am sure that Mrs Watts will give her reasons for leaving, but I am sure that the dysfunctional behaviour of the Labour-led administration has played a part in her decision to go. ”

I’m sure it’s nothing to do with her handling of local issues from  killing our deer on Tullos Hill  or objecting to SNP’s Salmond showing up at Bramble Brae primary school during a by election. He was only there of course because of Piper Alpha, and nothing to do with publicity – at least I think the press release said something like that. Why is she leaving? So far she’s not saying.

A touching SNP letter appears in the 27/3 Press & Journal.  The tears are streaming down my face as I read it:

“Valerie Watts came to Aberdeen City Council with a formidable record and she leaves with the utmost respect of colleagues and citizens alike.  I will miss the competence and drive of Mrs Watts at the helm of the council.  She has left some very big shoes to fill.” – Christian Allard, SNP MSP for North East Scotland

She may be leaving big shoes behind. Somewhere, perhaps in a cupboard she’s left behind a 3,000 strong petition begging the city not to kill the deer; she certainly didn’t bother to refer to it when writing a letter of 8 July 2011 about objections to the scheme.

“The objections that have been received by Aberdeen City  Council regarding this project since January 2011 to 28 June 2011 total 244 letter or emails from 197 individuals/organisations. This includes letters/emails form 3 Community  Councils (Cove & Altens, Kincorth & Leggart, and Bridge of Don”

You might have thought handing in a petition to Aileen ‘HoMalone’ on national television would have counted as objections, but not if you’re Watts.  http://news.stv.tv/north/17223-campaigners-hand-over-petition-opposing-deer-cull-to-council/

More on the lady in a separate article. I hope she doesn’t let the revolving doors of Marischal hit her on the way out.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman: (Proper Eng. noun) Scottish government entity charged with overseeing complaints against Scottish local authorities and other duties.

You will be happy to know that, Aberdeen city still excels in some areas. In a 3 September 2013 letter to outgoing Valerie Watts, the SPSO ranks Aberdeen City Council the worst in Scotland for the number of complaints received in 2012/13 about its housing services, second in Scotland about how its planning services function, and third in Scotland for Social work complaints.

We also come 5th in Scotland for Educational complaints and 7th for Environmental complaints. Considering that George Copeland has for instance waited over 8 months to get a working front door fitted to his flat after the police broke it in while looking for a non-existent gunman, I can’t see why anyone’s unhappy with Aberdeen’s Housing bods.

As to the Environment, where else in the country will you find streets like ours for cleanliness, or more concern shown for the welfare of wildlife and the environment. You will be pleased that Aberdeen had the same ranking for complaints for housing, planning and social work in 2011/12.

Yes, we can be proud of excelling at something.

But that’s enough definitions on the sad occasion of Watts returning to Derry. From what I’ve read, she’ll be helping to increase passenger numbers at the airport, which has not noticed any increase in passengers from its gaining the City of Culture title. You could almost think this ‘Culture’ accolade was a hollow, expensive vanity award with little saving benefits. But surely not.

Next week:  more definitions.

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Nov 012013

On Friday 7 June 2013, Grampian Police surrounded an empty flat on a curious tip-off that someone with a gun was inside. The owner George Copland was arrested elsewhere on Sunday 9 June. The police spent days tearing his place and his possessions to pieces, leaving an impassable mess behind them. Released without charge, he has had absolutely no help with clean-up and no apology.

Having visited the property at the end of October, contacted the police and Aberdeen City Council, Suzanne Kelly reports.

George Copland's property thoroughly searched and left in a heap.

George Coplands property thoroughly searched and left in a heap. This scene is repeated throughout the house.

George Copland is not well; this is no surprise. He was unjustly, as it transpires, arrested after Grampian Police dramatically lay siege to his empty flat, cordoned it off for days while conducting a destructive search that yielded no evidence of gun crime or any other crime.

He was arrested on the following Sunday even though there was no evidence of any crime, held for some 12 hours, and released without charge.

He is also without explanation, apology, any form of clean-up and any compensation.

Freedom of Information requests have been lodged for details of the arrest, siege and search. The police have not given any comment on the situation.

Normally if someone is the subject of a destructive, intensive, intrusive search and no wrongdoing is discovered, they are entitled to compensation and to having the property restored to its former condition.

And what a condition the flat is in.  George gave me a tour – as far as was possible.  I was not able to fit into parts of the premises for all of the possessions, many broken, strewn throughout.

It seems items were removed from the loft, examined, and left.  Items such as CDs lie around an emptied CD rack, many broken. George enjoys playing with remote control toys; some of which are – or rather were – worth a fair amount of money.

“See this car; it was in perfectly good shape,” he tells me, holding a large, clearly intricate radio-controlled car; its front wheels are missing and it seems to have been crushed.

“They must have stood on it to break it.”

“I’ve had to see my doctor; this is really too much.”

George continues;

“I tried to send photographs of the damage to WPC Niki Trower (an officer who seems to be involved with the case), but she says she can’t access the photos I’ve emailed for security reasons.”

Another broken RC toyI trust WPC Trower will look at these photos. This is how a man with mental health issues has had his flat left for four months after a raid which arguably should never have happened.

When I visit the house, it is clear that anyone claiming a gunman was inside must have gone up close to the windows: what made the witness or witnesses make such a claim? What led them to look into the windows?

The house is attached to another house, but its windows are not exactly on the beaten path.

The part of the house which is visible from a distance over a grassy area near Provost Rust Drive does not even have any windows.  The window near one of the two doors to the flat only has small windows, and unless someone specifically went to the back of the house and peered in, there is no way they would see anything there.

Then we come to the other door. The main entrance to the flat is down a short path, and past the other attached house. Unless someone were coming to visit the other house and continued on to George Copland’s front door and peered in the windows, they would not readily see anyone.

No one would have any business going down this path unless they were visiting the neighbour or George; if visiting the neighbour, what would have made them continue past the door of their destination and look into George’s windows?

George tells me:

 “I had aeroplanes hanging up in the bathroom; they were taken down and thrown in the bath”

Everywhere is the sight of broken toys and goods, some smashed, some clearly deliberately dissembled – while police apparently looked for an invisible gunman with non-existent guns.

Famously (as reported in The Sun), the police apparently  tried to suggest to Copland and get him to agree that a remote control and a feather duster could have been taken for weapons. Who was meant to be brandishing the imaginary weapon or even the feather duster is still a mystery, as we know as the police knew when they arrested Copland the flat they surrounded for 8 hours was empty.

George Copland door.George does not have a copy of the police report yet, but the police are, perhaps unsurprisingly, adamant that the siege was justified and the witnesses were trustworthy.

Aberdeen Voice will report further on the details when they are released.

Turning again to the main entrance door – it had been broken in, and is now bolted into place, unusable. If there were a problem such as a fire (not inconceivable, given the state of the place) there is only one exit now where there would have been two.

The windows are too high to be utilised for the purpose of fire escape.

The Council have been approached about their failure to mend this door; apparently it takes weeks and hundreds of pounds to get a specialist door like this replaced.

This raises some interesting questions about procurement, keeping spares around, and how we wound up with such an expensive item with such a long lead time on the City’s budget. Let’s hope no other vulnerable people need a replacement door in a hurry.

In terms of expense, the siege and search will have cost the taxpayer a considerable sum.

Surely the responsibility for having misjudged the situation so badly sits squarely with the police, and restitution, if not apology, are long overdue.

There seems to be nothing the Council can do about the mess and destruction; this indeed should be resolved by Police Scotland immediately.

George Copland in flat 2 picToo much time has gone by; too much stress has been caused.

The Police will be put on notice that a formal complaint and legal action will be started if there is no positive development forthcoming.

One anonymous donor has come forward; others who wish to support any legal action are welcome to contact Aberdeen Voice for details.

Some politicians have been trying to help, and it is appreciated, but so far, nothing has changed for George, except that the strain is causing his health to deteriorate.

If we don’t live in a police state, let’s prove that now, and get Copland the help, flat clean-up and restitution he is clearly due:  NOW.

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Oct 292013

The city was shocked in the summer when it emerged that a police incident, reported as a stand-off between police and an alleged armed individual in an Aberdeen house, turned out to be a hoax. The reverberations are still being felt but questions remain unanswered.

The history

7 June 2013 – armed police surround an empty property, on reports that a gunman is inside.  The flat was empty.

9 June 2013 – George Copland, occupier of the council flat at the centre of the siege is arrested in the early hours at his girlfriend’s flat.  After 12-13 hours in custody, he is released.

27 October 2013 – Suzanne Kelly updates Aberdeen Voice readers on what appears to unfinished business and an injustice which continues to affect an innocent citizen.

homeMr Copland’s flat was all but destroyed as the police tore the property apart in the search for the weapon allegedly brandished in the empty flat. They came up with a feather duster, a broken remote control toy and a legal air gun, but nothing illegal.
Mr Copland alleges he was prevented from taking necessary medicine while in custody, and further alleges that the police told him the name of one of the so-called witnesses.

You may think that in the ensuing months he would have been compensated, as is expected when police searches are found to be wrong and cause an innocent party to suffer loss. You may also have thought that a police apology would be in order, since no-one can quite explain why he was arrested days after the siege took place.

You may also think that Aberdeen City Council, aware of a national news story centred on a flat they owned and managed, would have ensured that the occupant was looked after.

Apology and repairs?

Aberdeen Voice can confirm that there has been no compensation, no apology and not even a proper front door replacement to date.

There have been renewed calls by Aberdeen Voice for the police and the Council’s Housing and Environment section to explain the delays in righting the wrongs. The police have now been asked to release the arrest record and provide explanations as to how they managed the situation.

Questions for the police include:-

* Did they disclose the name of a witness to Copland?

* Why did they arrest him in the first place?

* If they suspected there was a weapon, why did they wait days before making an arrest?

* What is the background of the witnesses? Do they have any prior police records?  What do their statements say? How could they have seen anyone in an empty flat?

* Knowing of Copland’s health issues, are they adding unnecessarily to the stress they have caused by holding back on compensation and an apology?

The Council has been asked to explain why it takes four months to replace what they must have known to be a battered–in door in a vulnerable person’s home. In response to requests made by politicians, they claim they only knew on 21 September that a door would need to be ordered.

Whilst it may be a security door that is required, it beggars belief that a council can have such an appalling procurement system. What if someone even more vulnerable than George Copland didn’t have a secure front door all this time?

Aberdeen Voice will bring you answers as soon as it gets further information, but getting anything released has proven difficult. Whilst we cannot dispute that the siege was carried out to protect the public, no-one is protecting Copland, who was entirely innocent. Could any of our institutions be trying to cover their tracks?


There has been one bright spot. Glasgow musician Deek Allan of Oi Polloi heard about the situation, and held a benefit gig for Copland. The band, its friends and relatives sent approximately £370, which was greatly appreciated.

Copland’s situation

In the meantime George Copland, who already faces ongoing challenges with his health, is feeling helpless and defeated. He can’t face starting the massive clean-up that should be done on his flat, which arguably should be paid for by the police.

He is reluctant to go out; he feels his neighbours are assuming he must have done something wrong to have been treated this way without compensation or apology.

He told Voice:

This is a nightmare.  The whole thing has put me back [he has had some very troubling thoughts since the siege and the arrest]. I can’t face going out much. It’s too much”

Aberdeen Voice will redouble its efforts to get to the truth, and to get compensation. A follow-up will appear within a week. Thanks are due to the politicians who are trying to help behind the scenes, but this is a situation that needs immediate resolution.

It happened to be Copland who was unjustly accused, arrested and whose home and contents were violated. Who will it be next time if we don’t find out the whole truth and learn lessons now?

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Aug 192013

A benefit concert has been arranged in aid of George ‘Dod’ Copland whose Aberdeen home was at the centre of a dramatic armed siege on June 7. With thanks to Ruaridh McAilein.

The concert featuring Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks and T34 takes place at Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow this Friday, Aug 23.

As reported in a previous Aberdeen Voice article, much of Mr Copland’s property was damaged or destroyed as police forced entry to search his unoccupied house following what was later reported to be a hoax call.

Mr Copland is still seeking an apology and compensation from the police.

Ruaridh McAilein, lead singer of popular punk band Oi Polloi told Aberdeen Voice.

“Dod has clearly been the victim of a significant injustice here. It’s extremely disturbing to think that something like this can happen in the first place but the fact that he has still not been compensated for either the damage to his property or to his reputation – not to mention the adverse effect that this must have had on his health – simply beggars belief.

“We’ve known Dod for the best part of thirty years now and can vouch for how willing he has always been to put himself out to help other people in need both through his community work and also in his personal life – and we also know how much pleasure he has brought to others over the years through his musical endeavours with Toxik Ephex – so the least we can do is to attempt in some small way to return the favour now that he finds himself in these straits after being treated in this quite frankly disgraceful way by the police.

“It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs in Aberdeen that the authorities appear to have done very little to put right this clear wrong and that it is left up to other ordinary people like ourselves to help someone in this situation.

“On the positive side, when we first suggested the idea of a benefit concert for Dod it was greeted very enthusiastically indeed by the many people in Edinburgh and Glasgow who have come to know Dod through his musical performances with Toxik Ephex.

“He has a lot of friends all over Scotland, and there will be plenty of us coming together in Glasgow on Friday night to not only raise some much needed cash to help Dod repair some of the damage to his house but also to enjoy a night of excellent music and partying of the kind that Dod himself has so often provided for us over the years.

“We are hoping to not only collect a decent sum for Dod but also to show him that he’s not alone in facing what’s happened and that he is held in considerable affection by a lot of people throughout the country who have come to know him through his music.

“We also hope that further publicising what exactly happened to Dod will help keep the pressure on the authorities to apologise and properly compensate him.

“We’d encourage as many people as possible to come along for a night of great live music and to support the cause of a person who has spent so much of his own time over the years helping and entertaining others.”

Bands: Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks, T34

Venue: Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow
Friday Aug 23, 8pm
£6 on the door

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Jul 012013

On Friday 7 June 2013 police surrounded an empty flat; its occupier George Copland was far away.  Reports of a gunman in the flat were obviously incorrect.  Early morning Sunday 9 June Copland was arrested at his girlfriend’s flat – police broke in, took him away, held him for c. 13 hours, and trashed the flat which they laid siege to, looking for weapons.  They found a completely legal air rifle, Copland said he’d kept it under lock and key, and rarely had it out – and had not had it out any time recently.  Copland was asked to agree if several items – remote-controlled toys and a feather duster – could be construed as weapons.  Denied his medication and medical attention, he was released.  The police have no plans to apologise or to pay for trashing his flat, although he has committed no criminal offence.  Suzanne Kelly reports on recent developments.

George Copland is no closer to having any form of apology or compensation for his broken goods and trashed flat.

The Sun newspaper took the story up, complete with a photo showing the devastation following the police search.

It can be found here: Scottish Sun Huckle-duster Gaffe

The rationale for his arrest, following the siege on his empty house, just doesn’t stack up.

If he were a dangerous gunman – then why the huge delay from Friday morning to Sunday morning to find and detain him?  Who was the anonymous tipster, how credible were they, did they know George, and precisely what did they see and where did they see it?  Since nothing illegal was found, where was any compensation for Copland?  They were also questions about the timing of events, what was confiscated and why.

The police did not respond until days later, and after the Aberdeen Voice article was published.

Police were sent some 25 relevant, detailed specific questions; they have declined to answer these.  Their spokeswoman was asked for a quote to use for publication; the reply was as follows (comment from Aberdeen Voice in square brackets):-

“Thank you for your email. I have answered as many of your questions as I can [actually, none of the specific questions were answered]…  however you will appreciate there are operational and data protection constraints which limit what we can comment on publically.”

[I wrote with Copland’s consent; he has now asked for these questions to be answered under Freedom of Information legislation]

“You mention an incident with a hostage on 7 June; at no time has Police Scotland stated that information about a hostage was received and it would be entirely incorrect to report it as such. “

[The Evening Express covered the incident on 7 June, in a piece with a quote from the police.  The article, which can be found here http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/Article.aspx/3269715 , refers to hostage negotiators being present – which certainly implied that a hostage situation was anticipated.  There does not seem to be any record of the Evening Express correcting, or being asked to correct their story, which also referred to the tip-off as turning out to be a hoax.]

 “As per information already in the public domain, I can confirm that Police received a call at 11.25am on Friday 7 June and specialist officers were deployed to carry out a containment of the property.

 “I can also confirm that no one has been arrested or charged in connection with wasting police time and that the information provided to police was well intended but subsequently found to be inaccurate.”

[The Evening Express called the call a hoax, and reported “detained a 29-year-old man in connection with wasting police time” and many papers reported similarly.  This comment from the police to Aberdeen Voice seems to be the first such instance of police saying the tipster was ‘well-intentioned.  There is a legal difference between being arrested and detained; and although a separate Evening Express article used the word ‘arrest’ in conjunction with the caller, Aberdeen Voice has since changed the word ‘arrested’ to ‘detained’ in its article.  The real issue is why the police at the time did not correct the issues which appeared in the mainstream media, and why only now are the police saying the caller was well-intentioned]

“Police Scotland has strict procedures in place to deal with information received from members of the public. The information received was acted upon in an appropriate manner in order to ensure public safety.”

[Well, it is rather obvious the strict procedures have failed spectacularly in this case.  This paragraph is merely a sweeping statement which could be used to justify virtually any act – ‘public safety’ seems to have become carte blanche for erosion of civil rights if this case is anything to go by.]

The Voice did write for further clarification, but was told the police are not prepared to issue any further statement or information.

A Coincidence or something more sinister?  Copland stopped by police again

In the very early hours of Wednesday 26 June, Copland was with friends, and they sought to get into a local late-night casino.  Lacking photo identification, Copland and another man were turned away, and decided to go to the second man’s home in central Aberdeen.  Near the entranceway for the parking area, a police car drove up, separated the two men, and proceeded to question them.  The conversation was described by the second man as follows – the second man happening to be Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen Voice:-

“About 3.35am, as we got to the entrance of the car park, just round the corner from my house, a police car pulled in in front of us, and divided our paths … I attempted to pass the rear of the car while Dod attempted to pass in front. The window was lowered and the police addressed Dod.

“Male driver asked if he/we had had a good night and what had we been up to.

“Dod told him we had been to the casino, but could not get in –  no photo ID, so we left.

“Female, passenger side, said she had seen us at the casino, then asked Dod what he had in the box he was carrying.

“Dod said ‘I have a remote control UFO ‘ and showed her the box (picture of the ufo flying toy on the box)

“Policewoman suggested that it was an unusual thing to be carrying around on a night out.

“Dod said something like “not for me, I like my gadgets and flying toys. What’s the problem with carrying that kind of stuff about? I’m the guy involved in that police siege in Northfield. Do you not think I’ve had enough hassle lately?”

“I added ” I’m the editor of Aberdeen Voice and we’re covering the story. Do you know about it?”

“The police claimed they did not know ( which I find quite incredible as it was an extremely high profile incident ) so I gave each of them an Aberdeen Voice card and told them “read all about it”. The police left us to go on our way.”

Let us hope this stop and question incident is a coincidental one-off.  Otherwise, it would look as if a man who is questioning the police on their unfair treatment of him is being shadowed.


George Copland advised the Voice the police have absolutely no plans to compensate him for his destroyed property, trashed flat and detainment.  The Voice will be looking into this.  Thankfully, while not enshrined in law, it would seem to be the case under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) that there is a right to apply for compensation:-

“[police should be ]explaining compensation may be payable in appropriate cases for damages caused entering and searching premises, and giving the address to send a compensation application, see Note 6A; (v) stating this Code is available at any police station”

Further evidence suggests the police are normally willing to pay such compensation when a search does not turn up illegal items being searched for under the terms of a warrant.

Copland supplied the name of the officer who told him he would not be receiving any compensation; we were unable to contact her prior to publication, but will continue to try and speak with her.

Watch This Space

As this story stands today, the police seem to have carte blanche to act on the word of an anonymous tipster – which then morphs into a tipster with corroborated witnesses – lay siege to and search any premises they choose, subsequently arresting the renter/owner – even  if they are not at or involved with any siege or illegal activity.  No compensation seems to go to an innocent man who was held for around 13 hours and asked to explain toys and a duster, while going without necessary medication.

The police will be more than welcome to send a written response to this article, but at the time of writing, if you have any neighbours who have a grudge against you, if you have anyone in your area who fabricates sensationalist stories, then don’t’ be surprised if your flat is searched and you are woken by police arresting you.

Let us hope for some real transparency from the police and some real compensation for a wronged party.

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Jun 212013

Suzanne Kelly met with George Copland, the resident of an Aberdeen house which was the scene of an armed police siege – when no one was in it – who was arrested and held for approximately 13 hours.

The 7th June siege, called a ‘blunder’ in mainstream media, was a massive police operation launched on the say-so of an anonymous tipster.
A 29 year-old-man, was subsequently detained for questioning on suspicion of wasting police time the same day of the siege.
Why then, was George Copland arrested and his property searched, on account of a hoax, days later?

Copland’s arrest and subsequent treatment unfolded like this:

Copland was arrested at his girlfriend’s home in the early hours of Sunday 9th June.   Police apparently shouted ‘Jo – we need to see you and make sure you are all right’ before breaking in.

It must be borne in mind that at this point in time, it was known to the police and the public that the siege was a hoax.  His own home was trashed by police looking for weaponry; his possessions broken and scattered.

Upon his arrest, Copland informed police he needed medication, and despite being told a doctor was coming, no one ever saw him.

He was told ‘specialists’ wanted to question him about a suspicious item found at his home (which Copland demonstrated to be no more than a broken remote controlled toy ) and was questioned repeatedly about a fluffy dusting brush – the police insinuated during questioning that these could be seen as ‘weapons;’

Copland feels police were trying to get him to say these items may have resembled guns/weapons.

There is apparently an acknowledgement that he was not in his home at the time of the siege.

No lawyer was present at this questioning. Police, with no warrant, wished to search his girlfriend’s flat.  He was held for approximately 13 hours.

There is no talk of compensation for the destruction; there is no apology.   There is no proper explanation as to how someone could be arrested for a hoax perpetrated on their home when they were not in it.

In an extraordinary move, police tell Copland the name of the person arrested for placing the hoax call.  This information still has not been released to the media.

Copland tells Aberdeen Voice:

 “I will be talking to a lawyer about this incident.  I want an acknowledgement this arrest and my treatment were totally wrong and unacceptable.  I want my flat put right, and I want compensation for the destruction of my property – but also for the damage to my reputation.  People are giving me a wide berth after the siege and my arrest.”

Copland openly tells Aberdeen Voice he has had problems in the past and is known to the police.  He has been treated for mental health issues in the past, which may be related to his Crohn’s disease, a debilitating digestive condition.
His mental state improved after surgery for his medical condition.

That the police knew of his issues but did not either allow him his medication or send for a doctor as promised is another unacceptable dimension of this case.

If Copland had a past record with the police, it is nothing compared to the record of the person police named to Copland as the alleged hoax caller, who has serious charges and convictions against his name.

Aberdeen Voice have sent police a contact form from the Police Scotland website, and have sent them questions concerning this story for comment.  Their response will be published once received.

This may be a UK first – arresting the owner of a property where a hoax was perpetrated which caused the police to launch a massive armed response.  An innocent man was subjected to a police ordeal, loss of reputation, property damage, medical neglect, potential violation of rights – all for an incident that never was.

No one is suggesting that the police should not respond to genuine threats – but did the police behave correctly at the 7th June siege or when arresting George Copland?  It hardly seems so.

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