Sacked chief constable Sean Price branded 'shameful' after being found guilty of gross misconduct

 

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The Independent Online

Sean Price, who has been dismissed as chief constable of Cleveland Police, was branded "shameful" by the police watchdog today after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

A disciplinary hearing concluded that Mr Price misled the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by lying and by trying to get a member of staff to lie for him.

IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long said Mr Price believed his position meant he could order people to do as he wished, adding that his standards have fallen far below what would be expected.

He said: "Sean Price's attempts to mislead the IPCC investigation by lying and putting pressure on a member of staff to lie on his behalf were shameful."

In a statement today, Mr Long said: "He almost got away with his attempted deception. However, the member of staff in question showed great integrity and courage in refusing to be bullied and stood up to him by asking to submit a new witness statement to the IPCC, fully explaining Mr Price's role in this matter.

"Mr Price appeared to think his position as chief constable gave him the power to order people to do as he wished.

"A chief constable must set the standards for the police force to follow. Sean Price appears to have forgotten this and he set his own standards, which fell far below those that would be expected.

"He has attempted to intimidate and bully staff under his leadership and mislead an independent investigation.

"He has failed at that - and, most significantly, he has failed the police officers and staff he led, the police service as a whole and the public of Cleveland."

Cleveland Police Authority has said that, as a result, a further misconduct hearing for Mr Price relating to 11 other matters in respect of gross misconduct will now no longer take place.

He remains on police bail pending further inquiries in relation to Operation Sacristy.

Chair of Cleveland Police Authority Stuart Drummond said: "As a police officer, and particularly as a chief constable, Sean Price's behaviour and attitude over this matter was completely unacceptable and the sanction imposed is wholly appropriate.

"His actions have seriously undermined his reputation and his credibility.

"I am pleased that the witnesses in this process have found the courage and strength to make a stand and challenge the most senior person in the force.

"I know that this has been an extremely difficult time for all those involved but they can take comfort from knowing they have done the right thing."

Mr Price said in a statement: "Clearly, I am extremely disappointed with the result today.

"I believe the disciplinary proceedings have, sadly, come to an incorrect conclusion.

"When the judgment was delivered and I was offered the chance to put forward mitigation, I declined - the panel was mistaken in their finding and I could not seek to argue for a lesser punishment for something I haven't done.

"I will therefore be discussing with my lawyers over the next few days how this can be addressed. It is important that the public be aware that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) carefully studied this file and decided there was no criminal case to answer."

He went on to say: "As chief constable I have been, and remain, immensely proud of the achievements of Cleveland Police and the dedication of its officers and staff.

"They have produced record falls in crime and disorder and won the confidence and support of the communities they serve, winning the title of police force of the year in 2011. I am confident this success will continue.

"On a personal note, I continue to deny any wrongdoing in this or any other matter."

Mr Price was originally investigated following allegations about his role in recruiting the daughter of former police authority chairman Dave McLuckie to a civilian post. It was claimed in doing so he used "undue influence" to get her the job.

The hearing found that he asked a member of staff to inquire about the job but he then denied doing so when he was subsequently investigated by the IPCC.

The panel also concluded that he then directed the member of staff to lie about the matter when questioned.

As a result their conclusion was that these actions amounted to gross misconduct and they recommended Mr Price be dismissed with immediate effect.

But the panel did find it not proven that Mr Price had directed that a job be found for an individual.

According to the BBC, Mr Price has become the first chief constable to be sacked since Lancashire's Stanley Parr in 1977.

The 55-year-old chief constable was dismissed "without notice", Mr Drummond told a news conference at police headquarters in Middlesbrough.

The authority chairman hopes to give details of 18 misconduct allegations that Mr Price was due to face, but which will not be subject to disciplinary proceedings as he is no longer a serving officer, once lawyers allow him to release them.

"The two aspects that have been found against Mr Price are relatively recent, around a recruitment matter," he said.

"There are 18 other charges of gross misconduct that will not be heard relating to periods going back five or six years.

"I would hope to release details of those charges as soon as that's appropriate, and people can make their own mind up."

He added: "The two counts that have been found against Sean Price relate around dishonesty and as a police officer that has got to be sacrosanct.

"As a member of the public, you need to have the utmost faith and trust in a police officer so I am really disappointed.

"Mr Price has let himself down, he has let Cleveland Police down and the people of Cleveland."

Stuart Pudney, Cleveland Police Authority chief executive, said that as Mr Price had already served 30 years, he was still legally entitled to claim his pension.

"He will leave with his pension," he said. "There will be no additional payments made to him."

PA