Company Name

Dear Barry,

Thank you for your letter dated 5 February 2018.

Let me first say that my office was not informed in any way about the appointment process. I only became aware you had begun the search for your third Chief Constable in five years after my Managing Director at the Combined Authority informed me that he had been invited to sit on the stakeholder panel. I advised him against participating – and given your choice of appointment I maintain this was the right decision. Given the farcical record of Mr Veale, I am pleased that my officers had no involvement in his appointment.

I welcome this opportunity to set out why I have no faith in your decision to appoint Mr Veale. First and foremost – as if this isn’t enough of a reason – he is currently subject to a misconduct investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). You knew about this, yet appointed him anyway.

Secondly, this is a man who presided over a two-year, politically-motivated witch hunt against the late Sir Edward Heath, at a cost to the taxpayer of £1.5 million. What’s worse is that it resulted in no action being taken. Indeed it later emerged that the main accuser in which the case relied was a convicted paedophile and fantasist, whose family had dismissed as a ‘born liar’. You knew about this, yet appointed him anyway.

Thirdly, I want to draw your attention to the highly offensive comments made by Mr Veale as reported in The Times on 16 January 2018. According this article, there’s an attendance note that was obtained by the newspaper under a freedom of information request in which Mr Veale allegedly said:

“If you have a six-year-old girl who has trauma in her vagina or anus, you would expect me to believe her. If you have a drunken prostitute making allegations regarding a bad debt, you have to make more of a judgment.”

Mr Veale’s reported comments suggest that he was less likely to believe a complaint by a “drunken prostitute” have been widely condemned women’s charities. Specifically the co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, who said that such comments implied that rapists could act with impunity “as long as they pick their victims well.” You knew about this, yet appointed him anyway.

Let me be as clear as I can: every day the men and women of Cleveland Police put their
own lives on the line to protect local communities. They are doing an excellent job and they deserve better. I’ve long said that Cleveland Police are failing in their duty to support officers and the public. They need to feel supported by an organisation that enjoys full public confidence. For you to suggest all is well demonstrates your complete ineptitude and unwillingness to deal with the fundamental problems of the force. Unless these are dealt with properly and head on, you will always fail to support our officers who do their best and putting their lives on the line very day. You can’t keep sticking your head in the sand as our force lurches from one crisis to another. Our force is broken and it needs repairing.

I’m disappointed to read that you are now unwilling to convene a joint review of local
policing. As you know, I was elected on a mandate to launch this review and since then my officers have been liaising with yours to establish joint terms of reference. However in light of the announcement that the force is now under investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct, I’m sure you would agree that it would not be in the best interests of local people for me to pursue this review whilst a very serious, national investigation is ongoing. Stepping on IOPC’s toes by launching a parallel review would not be appropriate, and may well do more harm than good. I am still committed to my pledge, however not while a serious review by the IOPC is underway. Your reluctance to now engage with this collaborative review in principle is damning, and also begs the question what it is you have to hide.

I want you to understand why there needs to be a review. Since the force’s inception,
Cleveland has acquired notoriety through an anthology of serious incidents involving
corruption and racism. Your weak excuse that all that is wrong with the force is historic is an abdication of your responsibility to improve our force. To those still affected by the impact of these issues, you continue to fail to address those that are still very real and present. So as to not allow you to trivialise the problems, I will list a small number of the many failings that clearly demonstrate why we still need a review of local policing, and why your refusal to engage in the process is deeply wrong:

Operation Lancet – corruption involving the trading by officers of controlled drugs for
information and assaults against suspects or potential informers.

False imprisonment of Sultan Alam after he raised industrial proceedings for “race
discrimination”. He was awarded an unprecedented £841,000 for “malicious
prosecution”.

The reported vendetta and false imprisonment of a local defence solicitor, James Watson, who was awarded £550,000 plus legal bills of £1,000,000. The then
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report, titled Operation Pomeroy,
is scathing citing “a host of investigative failures” with ‘mistakes, incompetence and
alleged dishonesty”.

Operation Sacristy – A three year criminal investigation leading to the dismissal of
the Chief Constable (Sean Price) and the Deputy Chief Constable (Derek Bonnard).
The former Chair of Cleveland Police Authority (Dave McLuckie) was jailed for
perverting the course of justice.

Former Police Constable Nadeem Saddique was racially discriminated against
over a 20 year career and was awarded £480,000. Police Sergeant Waseem Khan,
subjected to 4 years suspension whilst his misconduct hearing collapsed due to
police corruption. To date none of those found responsible for racism, corruption
and/or criminal conduct have been held to account.

I can only assume that your latest plan to increase the police precept on people’s council tax bills is to finance these compensation pay outs. Indeed since your election in 2012, you have increased the precept by almost 16 per cent. I suggest that getting your house in order first would remove the need for you to increase taxes on hard-pressed families.
I will end on this: until you face up to the structural issues at Cleveland Police, the public will continue to suffer. You claim morale is low because of my interventions – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Staff morale is low because of your failure to address systematic failures in senior management. I’m on the side of those officers on the front line who have been failed by a Chief Constable merry-go-round, and a Police and Crime Commissioner who is blind to the issues that are staring him in his face.

It is a criminal shame that you have missed this opportunity to give officers and the public a fresh start. All serving officers want is the opportunity to serve a force that is not tainted by constant scandal and to be proud of the job they do every day. You have instead needlessly chosen to throw away this opportunity and perpetuate the cycle of scandal that has mired our force for decades.

I feel perhaps you recognise this given the aggressively defensive tone of your letter.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Houchen
Tees Valley Mayor