‘Shameful’ ex-police chief Sean Price won’t face criminal charges

NO CHARGES: Former Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price
NO CHARGES: Former Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price
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AN ex-chief constable who was sacked for gross misconduct will not face criminal charges, he said today.

Sean Price, formerly in charge of Cleveland Police, had been under investigation as part of the Operation Sacristy inquiry into alleged corruption within the force.

He said: “I have maintained my innocence in these matters from the outset, and am of course pleased with the decision of the CPS.

“However, I think it is an absolute disgrace that I have been kept on bail for such a long period without even being spoken to.

“My extremely high profile arrest ruined my life and my reputation, and it is now clear for all to see that it was completely unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful.

“The ongoing and misguided criminal investigation has been a complete waste of £5 million of public money.”

Last October Mr Price, who lives in North Yorkshire, was branded “shameful” by the police watchdog after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

A disciplinary hearing concluded that Mr Price misled the Independent Police Complaints Commission by lying and by trying to get a member of staff to lie for him.

IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long said Mr Price believed his position meant he could order people to do as he wished, adding that his standards have fallen far below what would be expected.

He said: “Sean Price’s attempts to mislead the IPCC investigation by lying and putting pressure on a member of staff to lie on his behalf were shameful.”

Mr Price has been on bail for more than two and a half years after he was arrested in August 2011.

He said he had not been interviewed regarding any criminal matter during that time.

In October 2012 he became the first chief constable to be sacked in 35 years after he was found guilty of gross misconduct. The Independent Police Complaints Commission found he lied about his role in the recruitment of the former police authority chairman’s daughter.

He says his sacking was wrong and plans to appeal against it.

In a statement today, he said: “It is well known that I completely deny the finding against me that led to my dismissal. The main evidence against me was from a single witness who was shown to have lied.

“I was denied the opportunity to call key witnesses in my defence because they too were under criminal investigation.

“Now the investigation has been quite rightly dropped, I know these witnesses are keen to put the record straight and an appeal against my dismissal will be a main priority for me.”

Mr Price initiated the Operation Sacristy inquiry and said he assisted external investigators despite concerns about their methods, which he likened to the TV show Life On Mars.

He claimed when confidential documents were lost on a local golf course, he directed a specialist search team should assist.

“It was clear to me the investigation lacked focus and direction and was following rumour and speculation as if it were evidence,” he said.

“My advice, and that of others, was ignored and the investigators seemed blind to the facts, indeed they seemed to view everything through a distorted prism that had to find criminality at any cost...it was back to the policing days of Life On Mars.

“No criminality has been found on my part.... because none ever existed.

“Having spent nearly 33 years being proud to be a police officer, I am very saddened that the police could have acted in such a way over such a long period of time.

“I have briefed senior politicians on the progress of this inquiry since my arrest, and they have often expressed their incredulity at what appeared to be happening.

“Understandably they were unwilling to take any action whilst a ‘criminal investigation’ was ongoing.

“Now is surely the time for them to ask for a full account of this shameful waste of public money, and finally stand up for the many people whose lives have been ruined by this vicious, self-serving witch-hunt.

“I am very proud of the outstanding successes which were achieved during my time as chief constable of Cleveland Police, and I am very saddened that the events of the last two and a half years may have overshadowed the great work done by all the officers and staff during my time in the force.”

Commissioner Long said in October of Mr Price: “He almost got away with his attempted deception. However, the member of staff in question showed great integrity and courage in refusing to be bullied and stood up to him by asking to submit a new witness statement to the IPCC, fully explaining Mr Price’s role in this matter.

“Mr Price appeared to think his position as chief constable gave him the power to order people to do as he wished.

“A chief constable must set the standards for the police force to follow. Sean Price appears to have forgotten this and he set his own standards, which fell far below those that would be expected.

“He has attempted to intimidate and bully staff under his leadership and mislead an independent investigation.

“He has failed at that - and, most significantly, he has failed the police officers and staff he led, the police service as a whole and the public of Cleveland.”