Scottish Environment Protection Agency chief Terry A’Hearn quits following ‘conduct allegations’

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The chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has quit following conduct allegations.

The agency announced that Terry A’Hearn, who has been in post since 2015, has left his role with immediate effect. SEPA is responsible for licensing salmon farms through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, commonly known as the CAR licence.

The Scottish Government also recently confirmed SEPA as the lead body responsible for managing the risk posed by sea lice from marine finfish farms to wild salmonids.

SEPA is currently consulting on its proposals for a new risk assessment framework for regulating the interaction between sea lice from marine finfish farms and wild Atlantic salmon.

Allegations
SEPA said it takes conduct allegations “very seriously” but claimed it was unable to comment further in order to “protect anonymity”.

Staff at SEPA were last week told Mr A’Hearn was taking a period of leave.

The Australian executive had sent an email to all staff on 5 January welcoming them back after the Christmas holiday period.

It is understood Mr A’Hearn left last week with immediate effect and with no financial settlement for not working his three-month notice period.

Cyber attack
Mr A’Hearn’s resignation comes ahead of the publication next month of an Audit Scotland review of SEPA’s response to its 2020 cyber attack.

More than 4,000 digital files were stolen as part of a sophisticated attack that has forced the public body to build a new IT system from scratch.

SEPA chairman Bob Downes said: “Following conduct allegations, Terry A’Hearn has stepped down and left his position.

“SEPA has a clear code of conduct and takes conduct allegations very seriously indeed. In order to protect anonymity, Sepa is unable to comment further.” SEPA’s chief officer, Jo Green, has taken over as acting chief executive before a recruitment process is started.