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12 January 2018
The chief constable of Wiltshire Police, Mike Veale, is to step down. His contract was due to expire this summer but it is not being renewed by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Angus Macpherson. Mr Veale is the preferred candidate of Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger for new chief constable of Cleveland Police.
He recently faced criticism over the force's handling of accusations of historical child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath. He insisted Operation Conifer was not a "witch hunt", and said Sir Edward would have been questioned over sex abuse claims if he was alive when they came to light. Operation Conifer - which spanned 14 UK police forces - said a total of 42 claims related to 40 different individuals, with alleged offences from 1956 to 1992 - while Sir Edward was an elected MP. Sir Edward's godson, Lincoln Seligman, said he believed the investigation was flawed, and his former private secretary Michael McManus, who wrote a biography about him, said he did not believe there was any evidence of wrongdoing.
Mr Veale has accepted the Cleveland offer, saying it is the "right time for a new challenge". The Cleveland Police and Crime Panel will meet on 23 January to confirm the appointment. Mr Veale said: "It has been a very difficult decision to make, after serving here in Wiltshire for 13 years and the wider West Country for almost 34 years. "However, I feel it is the right time for a new challenge and it is for that reason that I plan to make this move. "I would like to publicly thank my officers and staff for their unwavering support for me during my tenure as Wiltshire Police chief constable."
The news has been met with strong reaction from David Ibbott, chair of the Wiltshire Police Federation.
He said: "Mike Veale was one of the best chief constables of my 17 years at Wiltshire Police. Cleveland's gain is Wiltshire's loss. "I'm hugely disappointed in the PCC. It is extraordinary that the PCC in Cleveland can see to appoint Mike Veale as chief but our own could not."
Wiltshire PCC Angus Macpherson thanked Mr Veale for his "unwavering commitment and dedication" to the force.
He said: "Since 2015, he has been an excellent chief constable and has guided Wiltshire Police through immense change to a position where it is amongst the top performing forces in the country." Mr Macpherson added the date that Mr Veale will be leaving is "still subject to discussion".
Mr Veale started his police career in 1984 with the Avon and Somerset force and was appointed chief constable for Wiltshire in June 2011.