Abolish Cleveland Police if senior officers cannot make improvements, says MP

James Wharton, Tory MP for Stockton South, has made the comments. Picture: Press Association.
James Wharton, Tory MP for Stockton South, has made the comments. Picture: Press Association.

A scandal-hit police force should be disbanded if senior officers cannot make the necessary improvements, an MP has said.

Cleveland Police have come under fire for using spying powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to hunt out leaks of potentially damaging information to journalists.

A hearing of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal was told last week how the force used the legislation in an attempt to uncover the source of stories in the Northern Echo newspaper.

James Wharton, Tory MP for Stockton South and formerly the Northern Powerhouse minister, said the latest headlines about the force followed a string of damaging stories dating back well over a decade.

These included former chief constable Sean Price being fired for gross misconduct, and claims in The Times that victims of Wayne Scott, a former constable convicted of rape, will sue because of alleged missed chances to stop his offending.

Mr Wharton, who called the force's use of RIPA laws to investigate journalists an "extraordinary use of powers", said the police and crime commissioner should press ahead with a full inquiry.

"The outcome, I would expect, is individuals losing their job either because they have done something demonstrably wrong or because obviously they are not the right people to get to grips with the very serious problems," Mr Wharton said.

"Failing that, it may be the only option to resolve these issues properly is to abolish Cleveland Police."

The MP stressed he was not blaming rank-and-file officers who he said had been let down by seniors.

Cleveland Police said: "We have fully co-operated with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal process and await the determination of the panel in the coming weeks."