Police chiefs take legal action

Sean Price (left) and his deputy Derek Bonnard
Sean Price (left) and his deputy Derek Bonnard

A SUSPENDED police chief and his deputy are suing the heads of three police forces after they were arrested over allegations of corruption.

Chief Constable of Cleveland Police Sean Price and his deputy Derek Bonnard were held on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice last August.

They have launched the civil action claiming unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and trespass.

Letters have been served by their solicitors on the chief constables of North Yorkshire, Warwickshire and West Yorkshire police forces and the two officers who arrested Mr Price and Mr Bonnard.

Mr Price and Mr Bonnard are also suing Keith Bristow, the interim director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and former chief of Warwickshire Police, which is leading the corruption investigation.

Mr Price said: “It is now 10 months since my arrest and detention. My name and reputation has been dragged through the mud, it has badly affected my health and I remain on bail suspended from the job I love.

“I remain baffled as to why I have been subjected to this treatment but it would appear it is down to my refusal to act unlawfully.

“I have now also been informed that the matter on which the search warrant was issued is not now being treated as criminal.

“I am totally innocent and determined to clear my name. I also believe the public, who are funding the bill for this inquiry, deserve to know exactly what has gone on.

“This legal action is the first step in that process.”

Mr Bonnard said: “I would describe what happened to me and my family as feeling like a plane crash in my life. The impact is heightened by the fact that I was born and raised in the local area.

“I have served policing for 25 years and, working with an excellent workforce, Sean and I turned Cleveland Police into one of the best forces in the country.

“Now I am suspended and subject to what I believe is an unnecessary, disproportionate and highly expensive investigation that the public are funding.”

Mr Bristow was appointed by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) Roger Baker to investigate allegations surrounding insurance claims, hospitality and the award of police contracts from 2006 to 2009.

A spokesman for Warwickshire Police, which is overseeing the probe, Operation Sacristy, said: “The investigations receive their own legal advice and we are satisfied that the investigations are necessary, lawful and proportionate. We are completing inquiries as quickly and professionally as lawfully possible.

“It should be remembered that this is an investigation into complex corruption involving a number of other individuals. A range of serious allegations are being investigated.

“A previous allegation by Mr Price and Mr Bonnard against Operation Sacristy, alleging a leak of private information, has been independently investigated by the IPCC and dismissed.”

The spokesman added they have been ready to interview Mr Price and Mr Bonnard over misconduct allegations for five months but they have been unable to make themselves available.

Mr Price and Mr Bonnard were suspended by Cleveland Police Authority after their arrest and they remain on police bail.

The inquiry has so far cost at least £1.1m.