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21 January 2019
A police chief at the centre of the sex probe involving former prime minister Sir Edward Heath has quit his new post after less than a year amid fresh allegations of serious misconduct.
Mike Veale was appointed as Chief Constable of troubled Cleveland police by Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger following controversy over the inquiry he oversaw while at Wiltshire Police.
And also last year he was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after he smashed his phone with a golf club.
His resignation from Cleveland follows allegations of serious misconduct which had nothing to do with any past allegations, according to Middlesbrough's Labour MP Andy McDonald.
He said: 'The news of the departure of the Chief Constable is a huge shock and immense disappointment.
'He has resigned following allegations of serious misconduct and Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger has done exactly the right thing by swiftly bringing Mr Veale's tenure to an immediate end.
'It is to be noted that there is the facility and environment in Cleveland Police for such matters to be voiced and that the seniority and position of police officers is quite rightly no bar to such concerns being raised.'
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has also called for Mr Coppinger to resign.
Taking to Twitter, he wrote: 'If ever there was a demonstration of how inept and useless PCC Barry Coppinger is, this is it. Our frontline officers and the public deserve better. Much better! Barry should resign immediately. What a shower.'
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke added: 'This is extraordinary news and hugely disappointing. I had hoped that Chief Constable Veale would be able to deliver a much-needed change of culture at Cleveland Police, but today those hopes have been dashed.
'In my eighteen months as the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, this is the second Chief Constable who has resigned. There are only so many of these incidents the hard-working officers and staff of the Force should have to put up with, let alone the public they serve.
'I think we now need a root-and-branch review of the future of policing in Cleveland, with all options on the table.'
Last last year the force's problems were brought into sharp focus when it was revealed the entire town of Hartlepool is policed by just 10 officers, leading to vigilante groups patrolling their own neighbourhoods.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: 'Hartlepool has been the focus of national news recently where it was exposed that our Police were dangerously under resourced and Crime was on the increase as a consequence.
'That national exposure led to an immediate meeting between me and Mike Veale and the beginning of a much tougher approach to visible policing and tackling crime in the Town. He was certainly determined to re- focus efforts on tackling crime head on and building a bigger presence on our streets.
'I make no judgement other than to say the new Interim Chief really does need to carry on with that determination to clamp down heavily on crime in our Town.'
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has also called for Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger to resign
Cleveland's reputation was further battered last year when Simon Hurwood, 51, a detective inspector working in the force's professional standards department, was dismissed for sexually harassing 21 junior female colleagues throughout his career.
Mr Veale was appointed in March last year after working for Wiltshire Police, where he oversaw the investigation into alleged abuse by Sir Edward Heath.
He was investigated over claims that he had deliberately damaged a phone belonging to the Wiltshire force in order to conceal contact relating to the investigation into the former prime minister, named Operation Conifer.
Middlesbrough's Labour MP Andy McDonald (pictured) said the resignation follows allegations of serious misconduct which had nothing to do with any past allegations
In September, the IOPC ruled that there was no evidence he had damaged the phone on purpose or with a motive to conceal evidence, but it said he had a misconduct case to answer because of his differing versions of events.
Mr Veale told colleagues that the phone had been dropped in a golf club car park and inadvertently run over by a vehicle.
He subsequently explained to IOPC investigators that the damage was in fact caused when he swung a club at his golf bag in frustration after playing a poor shot during a round in September 2017.
Following the investigation, IOPC director Catrin Evans said: 'The evidence gathered points to Chief Constable Veale damaging his mobile phone entirely by accident.
'He then arranged for all data from the damaged phone to be retrieved, and we found no evidence to suggest he was motivated to conceal information.
'That Mr Veale chose to give a different account to the truth, both verbally and in writing on several occasions and for some time, in our view amounted to a case to answer for misconduct relating to honesty and integrity.'
Operation Conifer was established to investigate historical abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath, who was Prime Minister between 1970 and 1974 and died in 2005.
Wiltshire Police concluded that, if Sir Edward had been alive, he would have been interviewed about seven disclosures under criminal caution - but officers stressed no inference of guilt should be drawn from the findings.