POLICE chiefs have been rapped by MSPs over the use of controversial “cyber kiosks” and told to delay their roll-out.

A hard-hitting report released today reveals that expensive technology bought last year is “gathering dust” as the result of its “substandard” introduction by Police Scotland.

The force has been criticised for failing to follow best practice during the trial of the devices while the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has been told off for failing to scrutinise and oversee the scheme properly.

The new cyber kiosks were trialled in Stirling and Edinburgh but people whose mobiles were seized were not told the new machines would be used to search their phones, so were denied the option of giving consent.

The cyber kiosks are laptop-sized machines that can gather data from digital devices without the need of a password. Forty-one have been bought by the force.

The controversy over their use triggered an investigation by Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee.

Convener John Finnie said today the trial had been “harmful to the reputation of Scotland’s police service” and “potentially very serious for any victim”.

He added that while the MSPs supported the ambition to tackle digital crime, any new tech intended to be used for policing purposes should be properly assessed for both risks and benefits before introduction.

“It appears that, in relation to the introduction of cyber kiosks, only the benefits were presented by Police Scotland to the SPA, with the known risks not provided,” he said.

“The SPA, for its part, seems to have accepted the information provided with very little critical assessment.

“Even the most fundamental questions, such as the legal basis for using this technology, appear to have been totally overlooked.

“This sub-standard process has resulted in over half a million pounds worth of equipment sitting gathering dust.”

Finnie said this was clearly unacceptable and any more trials on the technology would have to be conducted properly.

“While the events related to the trials are in the past, the sub-committee remains concerned that this technology was used by frontline officers without any human rights, equality or community impact assessments, data protection or security assessments, and in the absence of any public information campaign,” he said.

“That approach is harmful to the reputation of Scotland’s police service and potentially very serious for any victim, witness or suspect impacted by this.

“Any future trials must be carried out to a far higher standard, with more due diligence and forethought.”

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Johnson of Police Scotland said: “Like the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, we have received written confirmation from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service about the clear legal basis, and robust statutory regime, for the use of this much-needed technology. “The rigorous scrutiny of this process by the Justice Sub-Committee has added significant value to the development of Police Scotland’s assurance and governance processes for the use of this necessary equipment.

“As the chief constable has already made clear, there is a policing imperative for deploying the equipment to protect vulnerable victims and bring offenders to justice.

“However, he has also stated that he must be satisfied that privacy and human rights considerations have been transparently and satisfactorily addressed.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The recommendations in this report are principally for Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to action, but the Scottish Government will give the report due consideration in the coming weeks.”