Questions from MP Julian Smith have revealed that an estimated £245,000 of officer time was spent in the early stages of North Yorkshire Police’s investigation into Cleveland Police, money that is unlikely to be ever recovered in full he believes.
Cleveland Police chief constable Sean Price and his deputy Derek Bonnard were suspended on full pay in August 2011 and remain on police bail until April 2012
The ongoing inquiry into their conduct is being led by Warwickshire Chief Constable Keith Bristow with 22 officers actively working on Operation Sacristy including many from North Yorkshire.
The MP asked the North Yorkshire Police Authority to look into the costs following concerns about the amount of taxpayers’ money that was spent on the initial ‘scoping’ stage of the inquiry between August 2010 and April 2011. Money spent on the inquiry after April 2011 is being reclaimed.
Julian Smith said:
While mutual aid between police forces is common, this is a substantial figure to have been spent on a complex investigation when there was no guarantee any of the money could be reclaimed.
It appears that, yet again, large amounts of North Yorkshire taxpayers’ money have been spent on internal police matters rather than on the front line. Serious questions must be asked about the decision-making process that has led to this situation.
It reinforces the need for a fresh start at the top of North Yorkshire Police and proves why fresh, new and strong candidates are needed to stand for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner who can properly hold the Force to account.
Police Authority Chairman Jane Kenyon said:
North Yorkshire Police undertook the scoping of the enquiry as result of a request from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary direct to the Chief Constable. This is common practice when an ‘outside force’ is requested to investigate a crime/ incident, or investigate the scope of allegations received by the police, in another force area. Such enquiries have, over the last twenty years, concerned matters where the host force (in this case, Cleveland) could not provide the degree of objective separation to guarantee the integrity of the investigation.
Any criminal investigation falls under the direction and control of the Chief Constable and the necessary resources will be applied to the investigation based on the seriousness of the alleged offences and professional judgement. The operational independence of the police from political or other interference with their professional judgement is the unique element of British policing which sets us apart from the rest of the world and makes our police system the best. Accordingly, neither the Authority, nor indeed the incoming Police and Crime Commissioners, have the remit to influence a Chief Officer’s decision in these matters. If Mr Smith thinks that they should have such a remit, then he is suggesting a very dangerous departure indeed from current practice.
I also must take issue with Mr Smith’s description of this as an internal police matter rather than front line. The investigation by the police of allegations of criminal activities by high profile public figures is, frankly, as ‘front line’ as it gets.
However, from April this year, the investigation passed to Chief Constable Bristow of Warwickshire Police, although officers from North Yorkshire Police are involved in that investigation. At that time, it became clear that the ‘mutual aid’ provisions were no longer appropriate for the potential length and scale of the investigation and a charging arrangement was agreed between Warwickshire Police and Cleveland Police Authority.
I can confirm that NYPA is getting fully reimbursed for the cost of North Yorkshire Police officers involved in assisting that investigation from April to date.