MP's complaint about Police and Crime Commissioner dropped due to watchdog's 'limited powers'

An MP has called for the Police and Crime Commissioner watchdog to be given more powers to keep elected PCCs in check after a complaint he made saw no action taken.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald made a complaint to the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel in August this year after Cleveland PCC Steve Turner made comments on his Facebook page which accused the MP of wasting police time after he criticised Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen.

Mr Turner, who was elected to Redcar Council as a UKIP candidate in 2015 before defecting to the Conservatives two years later, made the comments after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped an investigation into former Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston following accusations of not properly declaring financial interests during his time in office.

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“This appears to be yet another politically motivated witch hunt against someone locally who isn’t a Labour Party member,” Mr Turner wrote at the time the charges had been dropped.

He continued: “Given his accusations against me I think that, should the allegations made by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald against Ben Houchen also prove to be false, then it will be time for us to seriously consider whether a formal complaint about wasting police time is necessary.”

In his complaint to the Police and Crime Panel, which exists to provide scrutiny of PCCs, Mr McDonald accused Mr Turner of making threats and insinuations about him. Mr Turner was also accused of straying into operational police matters by suggesting a charge of wasting police time could be pursued.

The Policing Protocol Order - the statutory instrument governing the relationship between PCCs and their police forces - states that PCCs "must not fetter the operational independence of the police force and the Chief Constable who leads it.”

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After the Panel deemed the complaint “valid”, Mr McDonald agreed to informal mediation with Mr Turner on condition the social media post was removed and an apology issued. However, Mr Turner refused to participate on the grounds he believed the complaint to be “vexatious”.

Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.
Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.

The Panel’s final decision also noted it, “was reminded of its very limited powers in terms of complaints, which did not include any powers of investigation or the ability to issue sanctions.”

Mr McDonald said: “It is deeply worrying with more than a hint of farce that Steve Turner can effectively decide whether or not action is taken against him when a complaint is made.

“By an extension of his tortured logic, does Steve Turner, who is supposed to hold Cleveland Police to account, think that those accused of crime should be able to decide whether or not they should face any investigation?

“The Police and Crime Panel should be given the powers to investigate and sanction Police and Crime Commissioners as appropriate.”

Mr Turner did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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