Police chief’s legal bid fails

Sean Price
Sean Price

A SUSPENDED police chief will face a disciplinary hearing next week after a High Court judge rejected a last-gasp legal bid to postpone it.

Cleveland Police chief constable Sean Price went to the High Court in London seeking a judicial review in an 11th-hour attempt to stop the planned hearing going ahead on Tuesday.

Mr Price was referred to the hearing by Cleveland Police Authority to answer three allegations of gross misconduct relating to the recruitment of the daughter of the Authority’s former chairman, Dave McLuckie.

Court documents revealed it is alleged that Mr Price involved himself in the recruitment of Mr McLuckie’s daughter to a civilian role, in order to “curry” favour with the ex-authority chief.

It is further alleged Mr Price then lied about his involvement to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and also instructed his personal assistant, Frances Bage, to lie to the IPCC.

Lawyers for Mr Price argued the hearing should be delayed until the conclusion of a wider criminal investigation into alleged wrongdoing within the force.

They said any possible criminal proceedings which may arise from the investigation, Operation Sacristy – expected to conclude in April next year – would be seriously prejudiced if Mr Price was found guilty of misconduct at the disciplinary hearing.

The judge said: “Taking the facts of this case into account, I reject the proposition that it is arguable that to proceed with these disciplinary proceedings next week will give rise to any real risk of prejudice in any future crown court proceedings – if those ever take place.”

Mr Justice Irwin told the court Mr Price is alleged to have been involved in the recruitment of Mr McLuckie’s daughter in 2008 and to have lied and asked Ms Bage to lie during the course of an IPCC investigation into that allegation last year.

Mr Price – who denies any wrongdoing whatsoever – was suspended in August last year and the court heard the CPS “cannot rule out” the possibility he will face criminal charges arising from Operation Sacristy, an inquiry into alleged police corruption in Cleveland.

However, prosecutors have already decided that no criminal charges will be brought against Mr Price in relation to the allegations involving Mr McLuckie’s daughter.

But Mr Price’s legal team argued that, if he is found guilty of misconduct at next week’s hearing, any possible future criminal trial would be “unfair” because such a finding would lead potential jurors to believe he had a “corrupt relationship”with Mr McLuckie.

Rejecting Mr Price’s application for a judicial review, Mr Justice Irwin said the hearing was a “civil tribunal” to settle a professional dispute between the Authority and Mr Price and that the issues were already in the public domain.