Police chief admits errors over case of speeding detective

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Barry Shaw, the Chief Constable of Cleveland, was incandescent yesterday when he described the decision not to prosecute a senior detective whose car was clocked speeding as "a misjudgement of monumental proportions".

Detective Superintendent Adrian Roberts, the head of Middlesbrough CID and the officer who introduced speed cameras to Teesside, caused controversy when he told traffic police he could not recall who was driving his car when it was photographed speeding in a built-up 30mph area.

Chief Constable Barry Shaw said the Roberts affair had caused him "more bitterness ... than anything else I have had to deal with in my time as Chief Constable," which included the failed £5m inquiry into the suspended zero-tolerance officer Ray Mallon.

Mr Shaw said the case should have gone before the Crown Prosecution Service. He said: "I cannot find any other way to give vent to my anger and concern. The reason for that is because there is no easy answer to the suspicion posed that the police are looking after their own."

A review of the case by Cleveland's Assistant Chief Constable Della Cannings has upheld the decision not to prosecute Mr Roberts, whose white Citroen AX was clocked doing 35mph at Yarm Road, Stockton-on-Tees in April.

Detective Superintendent Roberts, 36, whose force currently prosecutes 3,000 drivers a month, was sent a fixed penalty order by post but the ticket was withdrawn after he said he could not remember if he was in the car.

Cleveland Police Authority, meeting yesterday, had considered asking the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether Detective Superin-tendent Roberts could still be prosecuted for failing to name the driver but it was advised that because he had been sent a letter indicating no further action, the case could not be revived.

Assistant Chief Constable Cannings told the authority the speed camera photograph had been taken from behind and showed a man with short dark hair. She declined to say whether any inquiries had been made to establish how many other people were entitled to drive Mr Roberts' private car.

She said she had based her review on documentation rather than detailed questioning of the officers involved and concluded there had been no criminal conspiracy or police misconduct but rather "a bad judgement call on a busy day".

Dave McLuckie, a police authority member and local councillor, said he had received hundreds of calls on the issue from irate locals and he felt the law had not been applied.