Third arrest in Cumbria PCC leak case sparks row over whistleblowers

Police commissioner is accused of using office as ‘private police force’  in wake of expenses scandal

A police commissioner embarrassed by the leak of his £700 chauffeur bills is at the centre of a whistleblower row after a third person was last night arrested.

Richard Rhodes, the Conservative police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Cumbria, sought to defuse a growing backlash against his staff’s role in events leading up to the arrests of two police workers and a third man on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

One Labour MP called on the Home Secretary Theresa May to investigate, saying that it was indefensible that a PCC appeared be using the constabulary as a “private police force”, after The Independent reported that his own team raised “concerns” over the leak.

In a statement, Mr Rhodes said that he had asked Cumbria’s chief constable to review the “scale and nature” of the investigation following criticism of the arrests. He said that he had not influenced the investigation and his office said he had not known “at that time” about his office’s contact with police about the leak.

Following anonymous leaks, newspapers in Cumbria earlier this month revealed details of two chauffeur-driven round trips that cost a total of nearly £700.

One was a trip for Mr Rhodes and his wife between their home and Ambleside for a work meeting in January. Another bill was for a trip to a 17th century inn the following month. His office justified the trips for the evening engagements on the grounds of “personal safety” after working long hours in his £65,000-a-year job. He has since repaid the bills.

MPs last night said the greater scandal was the crackdown on whistle-blowers from revealing details that should be publicly available. Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for South Lakes, said: “We should be celebrating whistleblowing and encouraging it. It’s deeply troubling in a free society that this should be the response.”

Cumbria police said that it appeared its own ‘internal whistleblowing policies’ had not been followed in this case. “The investigation is focused on data protection issues and the unlawful disclosure of information,” said a spokeswoman.

However, the Labour MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed, said: “It’s indefensible for the impression to be given that the office for the PCC is using the constabulary as a private police service.”

The arrests followed concerns of a criminalisation of police whistleblowing expressed following the publication of the Leveson Report. Lord Justice Leveson called for alternative avenues to expose perceived wrongdoing rather than “breaking confidences” with wider dissemination to the media. “Information which is confidential should remain so, unless there really are exceptional circumstances justifying the placing of that information into the public domain,” he said.

Two members of police staff, a man aged 47 and a woman aged 50, were arrested on 10 April on suspicion of data protection offences and misconduct in a public office. They have been suspended from work and bailed until 25 May. A third man, 54, from Penrith was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and remained in custody today.

Police have not identified any of the three, but said the latest arrest was not of a police worker or a journalist.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week