Police staff arrested following leaked details of Cumbria PCC’s expenses

Workers suspended in wake of revelation’s about watchdog’s travel arrangements and costs

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The Independent Online

Two police workers have been arrested over the revelation of embarrassing details about a watchdog’s travel expenses following a complaint from within his own office, it has emerged.

The arrests followed the anonymous leaking of documents detailing the £700-cost of two round-trips taken by Richard Rhodes, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Cumbria, in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes.

His office cited reasons of “personal safety” for taking the luxury car to the speaking engagements.

Mr Rhodes, who earns £65,000 a year, now faces an inquiry from the panel that oversees his work following a complaint from the public, the chairwoman confirmed last night. However, the panel has no powers to discipline a PCC and cannot impose any sanctions for non-criminal offences.

Details of the two trips are the latest embarrassment for a PCC since the posts were created in November. A number of PCCs have been embroiled in high-profile spats with their chief constables, others have been criticised for appointing highly-paid assistants, and the decision to create a youth commissioner in Kent backfired when the chosen candidate was found to have written a series of offensive tweets.

The leaked document showed that Mr Rhodes’s office was charged £313 to take him and his wife from their home to Ambleside in January. Another bill of £385 was for a trip to a 17th century inn for a second engagement the following month, according to the News and Star newspaper. His office said both engagements were for his work.

The arrests of two members of police staff – a man aged 47 and a 50-year-old woman – came three days after the original stories appeared. The investigation started after a member of PCC staff “raised concern” after newspapers asked for comment. A spokesman for Mr Rhodes could not say immediately if he knew about the plans to report the leak to the police.

The two police staffers were arrested on suspicion of data protection offences and misconduct in a public office. They have been bailed until 25 May and are currently suspended from work. A third staff member, aged 59, has also been suspended.

Cumbria PCC chief executive Stuart Edwards said: “As a result of the long hours the Commissioner was working it was decided for personal safety reasons that support would be provided in terms of a driver for some evening functions with long and late return journeys.  When the Commissioner was appraised of the cost he immediately stopped the practise of hiring drivers. The Commissioner has personally reimbursed the full cost of the journeys. A review took place with alternative arrangements now being progressed.”

Police chief: Don’t turn a blind eye

A police chief has called for the public to intervene more when they see crimes being committed because a fall in citizens’ arrests leaves “society at risk”.

Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said too many people failed to intervene because they thought it was “only the job of the police”.

In a lecture at the University of Hertfordshire, Mr Lloyd  said cases like the murder of Garry Newlove, who was beaten to death in Warrington in 2007 when he confronted a gang of youths who were vandalising his car, should not be seen as a reason not to intervene.

He said: “There is a tendency to turn a blind eye and not even bother to report things to the police.”