Top police official held over £80,000 card bill

Spending on a publicly-funded credit card is now under police investigation
Spending on a publicly-funded credit card is now under police investigation
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NEARLY £80,000 was spent on a senior police official’s corporate credit card including meals costing more than £500, a payment of more than £1,500 to a company specialising in luxury car audio systems – and even shopping at a supermarket in a French fishing port, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The spending on the publicly-funded credit card of Joe McCarthy, former chief executive of Cleveland Police Authority, included more than £8,000 at restaurants and pubs, many of them in the old North Ridings towns of Yarm and Guisborough.

More than £16,000 was spent on hotels, with a highest single payment of more than £750 at a hotel in Leeds, and more than £9,000 went on flights.

It can also be revealed that Mr McCarthy has been arrested by police running a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations of corruption and other criminality at Cleveland Police Authority and the Cleveland force. The spending on his credit card is one of the issues under investigation.

Mr McCarthy was one of three people recently arrested as part of Operation Sacristy. The identities were withheld by police but the Yorkshire Post has learnt the former chief executive was one of the three.

The 46-year-old, from Cleveland, was arrested on suspicion of fraud, corruption, misconduct in a public office and money laundering. He has been bailed until April as inquiries continue.

Mr McCarthy has not responded to attempts to contact him for comment.

Spending on the credit card totalled £79,439.85 over a four-year period up to his departure in 2010.

Records of the spending were obtained by the Yorkshire Post following a freedom of information request. The police authority originally refused to release the information but was required to do so after an appeal to the Information Commissioner who ruled the records presented no significant risk of prejudice to ongoing criminal investigations.

More than £15,000 was spent on paying off phone bills, including those of members of the police authority – a practice it has ended.

Several thousands of pounds were spent on travel to the Bristol area which is thought to be linked to Cleveland Police Authority’s multi-million pound contract with private company Reliance to provide custody services.

Mr McCarthy joined Reliance, whose base was in Bristol, after he left his chief executive position.

Other expenditure included hundreds of pounds at Tesco supermarkets, spending at a golf club, at a jewellers and at Ikea.

Cleveland Police Authority said it could not comment on specific items of spending because of the ongoing police inquiry. But a spokesman added: “There is a revised policy on corporate credit cards with more detailed guidance on what can be spent on the cards and the governance and authorisation process have been revisited and strengthened where necessary. There has also been a reduction in the number of credit cards in circulation.”

The revelations surrounding the credit card spending and the arrest of Mr McCarthy are the latest serious question marks against the hierarchy of Cleveland Police.

Chief constable Sean Price, who was suspended after his arrest in August last year, is the subject of a gross misconduct disciplinary hearing which began on Tuesday.

Mr Price, who denies any wrongdoing, is facing allegations he used “undue influence” to appoint the daughter of former

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