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UNDER FIRE: Labour leader Keir Starmer calls for Steve Turner to step down

UNDER FIRE: Labour leader Keir Starmer calls for Steve Turner to step down

Steve Turner, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner, Image: Stuart Boulton

Under-fire Steve Turner has faced calls to step down from Labour leader Keir Starmer.

The Conservative police commissioner denies a historic sexual assault allegation dating back to the 1980s which has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

On Tuesday, the Tory police boss repeated his intention to stay on in his role – denying the allegation and adding the “highly confidential and damaging” allegation that he was responsible for a serious sexual attack was released for “political gain”

In a statement via solicitors, Mr Turner said: “As a public figure I accept the mental challenge this brings, but my family’s mental wellbeing should not have to be tested in this way.

“I do fully believe in English justice and am committed to supporting the investigation and the process in its entirety, and am confident the investigation will go on to prove beyond doubt that I am innocent, as I have not committed any such offence.”

Now Sir Keir has joined Labour colleagues calling on the police boss to step aside.

In an interview with BBC Radio Tees, the Labour leader said: “This is a test for Steve Turner and he should step down.

“It’s also a test for the Conservative Party.

“When there’s a serious investigation like this, the attitude of the political parties and the Prime Minister matters, and he should step down.

“If you take other examples in relation to the Labour Party, we have always acted swiftly.

“And the idea that somehow it’s for the public good for him to stay in office, I just think is completely wrong.

“We’ve seen this before.”

Last week it emerged Cleveland’s Police and Crime Panel had referred the sexual assault allegation to the police watchdog.

The IOPC says it has now started a “managed investigation” into the claim which would be carried out by a police force from another area, while under its control.

Sir Keir believed the Conservative commissioner should step down while the investigation was going on – before criticising Tory leadership’s stance on the matter.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mr Turner said he had been given no further information regarding the historic sexual offence allegation, the person involved, the location, or the circumstances.

“I feel uncomfortable that the details of this allegation have been placed in the public domain before an actual investigation has begun,” he added.

The commissioner claimed there had been an “orchestrated campaign” against him led by local Labour members – adding his resignation was “not the right thing to do in this instance”.

Mr Turner said: “I have been advised that the investigation can take many months and potentially years, and I should not anticipate it being concluded until well into 2024.

“I was publicly elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in May 2021, committing myself to a statutory and strategic responsibility for policing and community safety on behalf of the 560,000 residents of Cleveland.

“It is my intent to continue in my role and deliver what I was elected to do whilst the investigation takes place.”

He added: “This is currently an allegation and I cannot allow one anonymous allegation to bring into jeopardy the democratic process and the wishes of the public who took part in my election.

“To do so would create an incredibly dangerous precedent potentially creating political carnage across the entire country.”

Mr Turner was already subject to a referral being assessed by the IOPC after Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald used Parliamentary privilege to accuse him of theft from a Safeway store, in Norton, in the 1990s.

The commissioner said he accepted a police caution at the time in relation to an event at the supermarket – calling it a “minor incident” and a “stupid error”.

In response to the calls from Sir Keir, a representative for Mr Turner told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the commissioner did not wish to add anything further to his statement issued on Tuesday.

However, he later defended himself on BBC Radio Tees on Wednesday, calling the Labour leader an “absolute hypocrite” – referring to the case of convicted former Labour MP Claudia Webbe.

Mr Turner said: “As it stands today, we don’t know if there is a victim or if this allegation is from a third party, we don’t know what I’m supposed to have done.

“And all we know is there is a timescale some time in the ‘80s when I was somewhere between the ages of eight and 18.

“If we’re saying that an allegation of that type forces somebody is public office to step down, on the basis of an allegation which hasn’t even begun with an investigation, then every elected official in the country, and every elected person who is then accused of an allegation of a similar nature, has to step down, it would be absolute political carnage.”

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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