Under-fire force would still appoint new chief despite phone investigation

An embattled police force has defended its decision to appoint a controversial chief constable despite knowing he faced an investigation for allegedly damaging a mobile phone.

Mike Veale, who is to leave his role as Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police to take the top job at Cleveland Police, is under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said he offered Mr Veale the role in the North East in the full knowledge of the phone allegation.

Sir Edward Heath was investigated for child abuse after his death. (Chris Ison/PA)
Sir Edward Heath was investigated for child abuse after his death. (Chris Ison/PA)

Mr Veale faced criticism while at Wiltshire Police for overseeing a controversial child abuse inquiry into the late Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath which cost £1.5 million and lasted two years.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Police has been under fire for many years following a series of scandals, including a former chief constable being sacked for gross misconduct and a firearms officer winning an employment tribunal after being subjected to racism.

Mr Coppinger said: "Mike Veale was appointed as the next Chief Constable of Cleveland Police following a rigorous recruitment process in which the shortlisted candidates were considered by an interview panel, a panel of stakeholders and finally the Police and Crime Panel.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger (right) pictured with the outgoing chief constable Iain Spittal. (Tom Wilkinson/PA)
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger (right) pictured with the outgoing chief constable Iain Spittal (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

"Mike has a vast range of police experience, including as a detective and senior investigator, chief officer and, for the past two years, Chief Constable of Wiltshire.

"I was aware of the ongoing complaint to the IOPC concerning his time at Wiltshire Police and took professional advice on the issue.

"This matter has no bearing on my confidence in Mike or my decision to recommend him for the office of Chief Constable."

The IOPC said it had investigated anonymous allegations about Mr Veale and Wiltshire's Heath inquiry.

It found there was insufficient evidence to indicate any wrong-doing over disclosure of confidential information.

But it said: "We have however decided to independently investigate a second part of the referral relating to allegations that a mobile phone belonging to Wiltshire Police was deliberately damaged by Chief Constable Mike Veale.

We have launched an operation to provide greater focus and extra resources for three investigations into allegations of discrimination @ClevelandPolice. The investigations arise from an employment tribunal, an Equality Review and use of RIPA powers.https://t.co/tBWq0lHQiL

-- Independent Office for Police Conduct (@policeconduct) January 25, 2018

"This investigation is in its early stages."

On Thursday the IOPC said it was giving extra resources to its investigation into allegations of discrimination at Cleveland Police.

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