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Cleveland Police chief constable resigns less than a year into job

UK News | Published:

Mike Veale handed in his resignation on Friday after ‘serious’ allegations about his behaviour surfaced.

Mike Veale

The chief constable of Cleveland Police has resigned less than a year into the role, police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger has announced.

Mike Veale handed in his resignation on Friday after “serious” allegations about his behaviour surfaced.

In a statement, Mr Coppinger said: “My office has been made aware of allegations about the behaviour of chief constable Mike Veale.

“On Friday 18th January Mr Veale resigned with immediate effect.

“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).”

Mr Coppinger added that he is unable to comment further on the allegations, as the “appropriate processes” need to take effect.

He also said that arrangements to install an interim chief constable are at an “advanced stage” and that an announcement will be made later on Monday.

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An IOPC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have recently received a referral from Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner concerning the conduct of Chief Constable Mike Veale.

“We are assessing the information we have received to decide what further action is required.”

Following the announcement, the Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley Ben Houchen took to Twitter to call on Mr Coppinger to resign, saying: “Time to go Barry. You’ve failed.”

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He added: “If ever there was a demonstration of how inept and useless PCC Barry Coppinger is, this is it. Our frontline officers and the public deserve better.

“Barry should resign immediately.”

Mr Houchen later said he had requested an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary about the future of the Cleveland force and repeated his call for Mr Coppinger to resign, describing Mr Veale’s appointment as “reckless and incompetent”.

In a statement, the mayor said: “To appoint someone under investigation and under such a dark cloud nationally was more than a mistake – it was reckless and incompetent. I said this at the time but was shouted down by the Police Commissioner.

“The Chief Constable merry-go-round must come to an end and our Police Commissioner must resign.”

He added: “This force cannot improve under the abysmal leadership of Barry Coppinger and, if he had any respect for his officers or the public, he would do the right thing by resigning and calling a by-election.”

Mr Veale was appointed in March last year after working for Wiltshire Police, where he oversaw the investigation into alleged abuse by Sir Edward Heath.

He was investigated over claims that he had deliberately damaged a phone belonging to the Wiltshire force in order to conceal contact relating to the investigation into the former Prime Minister, named Operation Conifer.

In September, the IOPC ruled that there was no evidence he had damaged the phone on purpose or with a motive to conceal evidence, but it said he had a misconduct case to answer because of his differing versions of events.

Mr Veale told colleagues that the phone had been dropped in a golf club car park and inadvertently run over by a vehicle.

He subsequently explained to IOPC investigators that the damage was in fact caused when he swung a club at his golf bag in frustration after playing a poor shot during a round in September 2017.

Following the investigation, IOPC director Catrin Evans said: “The evidence gathered points to Chief Constable Veale damaging his mobile phone entirely by accident.

“He then arranged for all data from the damaged phone to be retrieved, and we found no evidence to suggest he was motivated to conceal information.

“That Mr Veale chose to give a different account to the truth, both verbally and in writing on several occasions and for some time, in our view amounted to a case to answer for misconduct relating to honesty and integrity.’

Operation Conifer was established to investigate historical abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath, who was Prime Minister between 1970 and 1974 and died in 2005.

Wiltshire Police concluded that, if Sir Edward had been alive, he would have been interviewed about seven disclosures under criminal caution – but officers stressed no inference of guilt should be drawn from the findings.

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