War of words over appointment of new Cleveland Police chief constable

The new chief constable of Cleveland Police Mike Veale, left, with police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger.
The new chief constable of Cleveland Police Mike Veale, left, with police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger.

A war of words has broken out between two high profile figures over the appointment of Cleveland Police’s new chief constable.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says he has “no faith” in the appointment of Mike Veale as chief constable of Cleveland Police.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Mr Houchen has complained of the appointment in letters to Barry Coppinger, Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

But Mr Coppinger has hit back saying Mr Veale has “an outstanding record” and Mr Houchen should offer him his support.

Mr Houchen raised concerns because Mr Veale faced criticism for the handling of accusations of historical child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath while police chief in Wiltshire.

Mr Veale is also being investigated for alleged misconduct relating to the case.

Mr Houchen also complained of comments attributed to Mr Veale regarding the treatment of sex offence complainants.

The Mayor said in the letter to Mr Coppinger: “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.”

Mr Houchen says the force needs to be subject of a review after previous investigations revealed misconduct and racism.

He said: “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.”

Responding, Mr Coppinger said: “Ben Houchen’s attacks upon serving Cleveland Police officers and staff and the newly appointed Chief Constable leave him totally isolated and without credibility.

“Senior police figures, politicians of all parties including his own, and all local stakeholders are as one that Mike Veale has an outstanding record as a police officer and should be offered support in his job as the new Chief Constable.

“‘Broken’ forces, as Ben refers to Cleveland, are not ranked as Good by the police watchdog – or perhaps Mr Houchen feels he knows better than Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police Fire and Rescue Services?

“Apart from containing major inaccuracies, his explanation for his unjustified comments seem based on historic issues which all reputable agencies acknowledge the force and my office are dealing with correctly, robustly and with success.”