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INVESTIGATION: ‘Business as usual’ for police commissioner

INVESTIGATION: ‘Business as usual’ for police commissioner

Teesside PCC count at Thornaby Pavilion, Image: Tim McGuinness/Teesside Live

Embattled Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner has no intention of standing down or resigning despite now facing a criminal investigation over an allegation of serious sexual assault.

Mr Turner has not commented on the latest development, but a spokeswoman for his office confirmed it remained “business as usual” for the Conservative PCC and said he would not be stepping away from the role.

The PCC was already subject to a referral being assessed by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) after Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald used Parliamentary privilege to accuse him of theft from a Safeway store in Norton, Teesside where he worked in the 1990s.

In an open letter Mr Turner subsequently admitted he had accepted a police caution over an “event” while employed by the former supermarket chain.

On Thursday it emerged that a second referral to the IOPC from the Cleveland police and crime panel concerned an alleged sex assault dating back to the 1980s.

The IOPC said it had now begun a “managed investigation” into these claims which would be carried by a police force from another area, while under the police watchdog’s control.

Members of the police and crime panel, which is tasked with holding Mr Turner to account, met in an extraordinary behind closed doors meeting on Wednesday.

They are understood to have been advised to make no public statements for fear of prejudicing any investigation.

Labour’s Mr McDonald has again called for Mr Turner to resign, stating his position became untenable following the earlier revelation of the police caution.

He said: “I said then that he should resign with immediate effect and I remain of that view as he is clearly unfit for office.”

Mr McDonald said the referral set to be investigated by police was a “serious matter”, but it was inappropriate for him to comment any further.

Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham said: “These are extremely serious allegations and need to be properly and independently investigated.

“That is what is happening, and it is important that the IOPC are allowed to carry out the investigation without any interference or further public comment.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the representatives of Mr Turner’s Conservative colleagues, including Tory MPs Simon Clarke [Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland], Jacob Young [Redcar] along with Matt Vickers [Stockton South] to ask if they felt the PCC should now stand down.

But no immediate response was received.

A similar question was put to Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who repeatedly called for the former Labour PCC for Cleveland Barry Coppinger to resign while he was in office, calling Cleveland Police a “basket case” under his tenure.

Again no comment was forthcoming.

At the start of the week Mr Turner’s office had put out a press release which said he was seeking assurances from senior leaders at Cleveland Police about how they are addressing violence against women and girls following the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met police officer Wayne Couzens.

Mr Turner did not attend the planned scrutiny meeting on Wednesday which was chaired by a standards and scrutiny manager from his office.

A spokeswoman for the PCC said: “Cleveland Police has confirmed that violence against women and girls remains a strategic priority.

“Senior officers updated the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner on ongoing work around abuse of power, sexual harassment in the workplace, police officer misconduct and vetting.

“We will seek further assurance about how the force works with partner agencies to support victims, including instances where the victim chooses to disengage from the police process.”

Mr Turner was elected in May having made pre-election pledges to put more police on the streets and to “get tough” on drugs and crime gangs.

His job is to provide a strategic blueprint for the Cleveland force in reducing crime and disorder and to provide a voice for victims of crime and residents.

Mr Turner was previously a UKIP councillor before switching to the Tories and managed the offices of Mr Clarke, who is now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Mr Young.

He is married to Redcar and Cleveland Councillor Andrea Turner, who was elected to the Longbeck ward earlier this year.

 

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter


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