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Toxic ‘Forres Boys’ Club’ police officer placed on sex offenders register after assaulting female colleague

Scott Gallop
Scott Gallop

A police officer who sexually assaulted a female colleague has been placed on the sex offenders register after an investigation into a toxic “boys’ club” culture at a Moray police station.

Now-retired policeman Herbert Scott Gallop touched Gemma MacRae’s bottom and other parts of her body, despite her telling him not to.

The 54-year-old single father-of-one has been placed on the sex offenders register for one year and handed a supervision order for the same length of time.

It’s the only prosecution and conviction to result from a 15-month-long police watchdog probe into allegations of bullying and misogyny at Forres police office.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner’s confidential report, which cost almost £250,000, made allegations against seven police officers.

But the Crown Office determined there was insufficient evidence of criminality in all but Gallop’s case.

Forres Police Station.

Gallop’s 33-year-old victim Gemma MacRae, who had to quit the national force and now lives in Norway, waived her right to anonymity to comment on the conviction.

She told The Press and Journal that today’s sentencing brought her “mixed emotions” and that she believe’s there’s still an “orchard full of bad apples” within the force.

“I am glad that the five-year-long ordeal has finally reached a conclusion which has finally held Gallop accountable for his actions,” she said.

“I believe that we have only achieved this result due to PIRC taking control of the investigation. Should the investigation have been left with Police Scotland, the truth would not have come out to the public and justice would not have been served.

“As a result of Police Scotland’s failings to investigate, I lost five years fighting for justice and a career that I worked hard for and loved.

“This is not just an issue of what Scott Gallop did, it’s the complete failure of police management to support me, protect me and the subsequent retaliation I faced as a whistleblower.

“Now it will be revealed whether the leadership of Police Scotland will do anything with this or again fail the public by treating it as one bad apple.

“I don’t think we’ll see any change in the culture within Police Scotland until those in charge are held accountable for failing to investigate criminal offences.

“We had justice today for one bad apple, yet there is still an orchard remaining.”

Victim’s ‘mixed emotions’

In an earlier interview with our sister newspaper The Sunday Post she further claimed her experience made a “mockery of the public statements of condemnation of misogyny and bullying made by the chief constable and other senior officers”.

She said “If graduating from Tulliallan in 2015 was the proudest day of my life, being forced to leave my dream job was the saddest.

“From the moment I found the courage to report what was happening, I became a target. No one in a position of authority wanted to know. They turned away. I was abandoned, betrayed.”

Gallop was allowed to continue working for almost a year after being accused before leaving the force with his pension intact.

Gemma MacRae waived her right to anonymity.

Ms MacRae said that Gallop, who was almost twice her age, pretended to comfort her before touching her inappropriately on her bottom and elsewhere despite being told to stop.

‘I viewed him as a father figure’

“At first I thought he was just being kind,” she said. “He knew I’d just suffered a traumatic break-up. I viewed him as a father figure as we had been partnered on jobs.

“I thought I could trust him when he started telling me about his own problems. When he began touching me inappropriately, I was horrified.

“I told him to stop and he quickly realised he’d overstepped. He apologised profusely, and insisted he was depressed and feeling suicidal. I felt sorry for him, so I didn’t report it immediately, hoping he would get the message.

“But when he came to my home, ostensibly to check on how I was, the inappropriate touching continued. He’d send me sexually explicit messages which were disturbing. I had no choice but to make an official complaint.”

He appeared for sentencing at Elgin Sheriff Court today.

‘He is mortified he upset her’

His defence agent John MacColl told the court: “There’s reference in the background report to Mr Gallop not picking up on signals and signs that were being passed to him.

“The day after the offence on September 4, 2019, he was invited by the complainer to her residence for a cup of coffee and there was an emoji attached to that message showing affection.

“She did engage in some continued form or contact with Mr Gallop though she ultimately didn’t want to continue that on.

“It was over a year later that the matter was reported in terms of a complaint being made which was investigated internally.

“It was another year later when it was reported to police.

“He accepts full responsibility. He is described as being mortified that he has upset the complainer.

“I invite your lordship to take the view that this was an isolated offence committed against the background of Mr Gallop not having recognised the signs being shown to him.

“He had made a mistake. It is clear and obvious to him that he has done that. He wishes to put this matter behind him.”

‘Previously unblemished history’

Mr MacColl said Gallop, who served in the Royal Air Force, had a “previously unblemished history” and a “strong work ethic in the armed forces and police”.

He insisted that Gallop’s view is that the woman was a “close friend” with whom he had “strong feelings of affection, stopping short of romantic attraction”.

However, Sheriff Robert MacDonald, who presided over Gallop’s trial, refuted the claim.

He said that the evidence showed it was “clear he had a physical attraction towards her”.

Recalling the lengthy letter Gallop sent to the Ms MacRae a month after the offence, the sheriff added: “I don’t accept that you had no feeling for her nor a romantic attraction.”

Sheriff MacDonald also said in terms of the seriousness of the sexual assault, this was at the lower end of the scale – but he did not wish to “trivialise the offence or the effect it had on the complainer”.

Text messages

During the trial in September, the court heard how the 54-year-old – known as Scott Gallop – and Ms MacRae had become close friends when they were both signed off work at the same time.

However, his behaviour got too close to comfort for the younger woman and the court was told she addressed it with him in a series of text messages.

After he pulled her up for being “grumpy”, she texted back: “Well not touching bum and waist today and I might not be a grumpy bear” and further told him: “If I’m honest I noticed it happening again. It’s highly frustrating when it happens after me saying.

“I don’t want to fall out or a big deal made. So now it’s out in the open I won’t be mean.”

His response was: “Well, apologies for being in awe. I sometimes don’t realise what a c*** I’m being. I don’t think about others’ feelings.”

‘I find you attractive’

The court was told when Ms MacRae complained about his inappropriate touching Gallop wrote her a multiple-page apology letter in which he said he “loved her” and listed all her attributes.

Procurator fiscal Sharon Ralph suggested the apology letter was one of “love and affection” that showed he was “besotted” with the woman.

Gallop called the woman a “tough little cookie” who kept “focused and strong both physically and mentally”.

“Thank you, you are wonderful,” he signed it. “I love you. I am and if you will let me I will remain always your friend.”

Gallop disagreed with her suggestion it was a “romantic love” and denied having any sexual attraction to her.

But further extracts of the letter read stated: “I don’t think I have ever managed to hide or even try to the fact I find you attractive. You are gorgeous. I could name every part of you but the only thing they have in common is they are all beautiful.”

‘An Old Boys’ Club closing ranks’

The court was also told of Gallop’s involvement in the so-called ‘Boys’ Club’ at Forres Police Station, which was investigated at a cost of £247,000.

Male officers were said to have targeted a heavily pregnant officer and a female civilian worker by trapping them inside the station.

A further allegation of a serious sexual assault was also investigated.

The court heard how Ms MacRae was once tricked into getting out of a police van in remote woods late at night before officers – including Gallop – drove off, leaving her stranded.

She said she had to walk in the dark through Roseisle woods, near Burghead, so she could be reunited with them.

Ms Ralph put it to Gallop that he, along with two other male officers, encouraged the woman to get out of the police van.

Roseisle woods. Image: Google Maps

The fiscal described the incident as “infantile” and suggested there was a better way for publicly-funded officers to spend their time than “joking around at the expense of the public purse”.

Gallop didn’t deny involvement but said: “It was a joke. We never left her. We only drove 10 to 15 metres away.”

‘The lie of that statement is in your letter’

Finding Gallop guilty of one amended charge of sexual assault and not guilty to a second, Sheriff Robert McDonald said he didn’t find his evidence “credible”.

He told him: “If we look at your apology letter, the tone of it is the tone of somebody that knows he had done wrong.

“In that letter, you admit you took liberties. You compare yourself to the ‘Me Too’-type things that have been in the media.

“I didn’t find your evidence credible and reliable, I’m afraid.

“You lied that you were attracted to her and the lie of that statement is in your letter.”

Sheriff McDonald handed Gallop, of Kensal Green, Forres, a community payback order comprising one-year of supervision.

He also placed Gallop on the sex offenders register for a year.

Scott Gallop is pictured outside Elgin Sheriff Court.

‘Misogyny, sexism and discrimination of any kind is utterly unacceptable’

Commenting on the conviction, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs, executive lead for Professionalism and Assurance, said: “Scott Gallop’s conduct fell far below the high standards of professional behaviour the public rightly expects of a police officer.

“It takes a great deal of courage to report sexual assault and I understand how much more challenging that must be when the offender is a police officer.

“The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) conducted an independent Crown-directed investigation and Police Scotland fully assisted with those enquiries.

“Since this investigation, Police Scotland assessed a number of matters and – although conduct proceedings are private – appropriate action was taken to address behaviour that was not in line with our values of integrity, fairness, respect and upholding human rights.

“Recruitment and postings have been reviewed to bring additional perspective and experience into the Moray area and the staffing profile both in leadership roles and with probationary constables has transformed, enabling renewed focus on our values.”

He added: “Misogyny, sexism and discrimination of any kind is utterly unacceptable – it has no place in society and no place in policing.

“In September we outlined action to address injustice and disadvantage in both society and the organisation under our Policing Together strategy.”

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Sexist police ‘boys’ club’ members could still face prosecution if new evidence of criminality emerges