Top officers used force like a ‘medieval fiefdom’

SENIOR officers treated a scandal-hit force like a “medieval fiefdom”, the police watchdog has said.

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced no criminal charges will result from a £4.6m, 41-month investigation into Cleveland Police, which looked into allegations of corruption.

The inquiry, named Operation Sacristy, did lead to Chief Constable Sean Price and his deputy Derek Bonnard being dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Price was the first chief in 35 years to be sacked.

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The chairman of Cleveland Police Authority Dave McLuckie was jailed last year after it came to light he got a friend to take speeding points for him so he could avoid a driving ban.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with any offence regarding corruption.

That announcement “brings a sorry chapter in the history of Cleveland Police to an end”, according to Cindy Butts, North East Commissioner for the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

She said allegations that Mr Price lied about helping Mr McLuckie’s daughter get a job led to his dismissal, and “that matter proved to be the tip of the iceberg”.

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The inquiry continued, she said, and looked into the use of corporate credit cards, hospitality, car allowances and pay.

“This investigation exposed a culture at the top of Cleveland Police which was reminiscent of a medieval fiefdom,” she said.

“Senior officers sought to gain personal benefit from the public purse, showing a complete disregard for the public they had been appointed to serve.

“The fact Mr Price and Mr Bonnard are no longer serving police officers shows the worth of the investigations that have been carried out. Their shameful behaviour has damaged the reputation of Cleveland Police and the police service generally.”

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Ms Butts said she was disappointed Detective Inspector Heather Eastwood, who was Mr Price’s staff officer and is now his wife, was allowed to resign before she faced a gross misconduct hearing.

She was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in April 2011, but then allegedly did not inform her employer.

The commissioner said: “Police officers – and in particular senior police officers – have an obligation to maintain the highest standards of integrity and set the example for officers who serve under them to follow.

“These officers showed a complete disregard for this and instead sought to further their own selfish agendas.

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“The investigative work by the IPCC and Operation Sacristy has put an end to that.

“It is time now for Cleveland Police and the police service as a whole to learn the lessons from this sorry saga – to remember that policing is done with the consent of the public and that this can only happen if there is confidence in all aspects of the police service.”

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