Police chief resigns after two female officers make accusations of inappropriate behaviour

Mike Veale Mike Veale Responding last year to the fallout of the Ted Heath investigation, Mr Veale blamed the media for his actions for placing him under “intense pressure”, despite admitting lying.He also suggested he had been the target of a vexatious campaign to destroy his reputation for spearheading the two year investigation into allegations of historic abuse against the late former Tory leader. In September, a separate IOPC investigation found he had lied over how his mobile phone had been smashed while he was still in charge at Wiltshire. The IOPC found he misled colleagues, but cleared him of causing damage “deliberately or with the motive to conceal any information”.In announcing Mr Veale’s resignation yesterday, Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said in a statement: “My office has been made aware of allegations about the behaviour of Chief Constable Mike Veale. On Friday 18th January Mr Veale resigned with immediate effect.“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”In a subsequent press conference, Mr Coppinger refused to reveal the nature of the complaints but said the concerns about Mr Veale’s behaviour were deemed serious enough to be referred to the IOPC. The complaints were made during his time at Cleveland.Asked whether Mr Veale may have been dismissed had he not resigned, he declined to comment.Mr Veale’s predecessor Iain Spittal retired in December 2017 after two years in charge. He had replaced Jacqui Cheer, who was chief constable for five years, having stepped in when her predecessor Sean Price was sacked for misconduct in 2012.  Sir Edward HeathCredit:Harry Todd/Hulton Archive Mr Coppinger also rejected calls for his own resignation – despite his force having five Chief Constables in just over six years.Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, posted on Twitter: “If ever there was a demonstration of how inept and useless PCC Barry Coppinger is, this is it. Our frontline officers and the public deserve better. Barry should resign immediately. What a shower.”Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, said: “This is now the second chief constable to resign in my 18 months as a local MP. These allegations are extremely concerning. I think we now need a root-and-branch review of the future of policing in Cleveland, with all options on the table.”Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesborough, said: “I don’t know the details of these allegations. Clearly they are of sufficient severity to warrant his resignation.”An IOPC spokesman said: “We are assessing the information we have received to decide what further action is required. ”Cleveland announced that Humberside’s chief constable Lee Freeman announced will take temporary charge of the force.Probe into the broken mobile phoneAn investigation into Mike Veale’s actions was launched in November 2017 after an anonymous letter was sent to the police watchdog, alleging he had deliberately damaged his phone to hide evidence of leaks to the media about the investigation, codenamed, Operation Conifer. He explained: “During the course of this investigation I have had the opportunity to reflect on my actions. The account I gave to some colleagues should not have been given. The chief constable in charge of the disastrous Edward Heath sex abuse inquiry has resigned in disgrace less than a year into his new job amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards two female officers.Mike Veale quit “with immediate effect” after being accused of serious misconduct just ten months after taking up his new post as head of Cleveland Police.His resignation on Friday came 24 hours after complaints of serious misconduct had been referred to the watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).Sources have told the Telegraph that allegations were made by two female officers and passed to Barry Coppinger, Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, before Christmas. Mr Coppinger in turn referred the claims to the IOPC.Sources have said Mr Veale is accused of inappropriate behaviour towards the two women. The resignation marks the end of Mr Veale’s policing career which has been dogged by controversy since overseeing Wiltshire Police’s £1.5 million inquiry into child sexual abuse claims against Edward Heath. The two-year investigation found no evidence against Heath while his chief accuser turned out to be a serial paedophile and fantasist currently serving a lengthy jail term.Mr Veale’s contract with Wiltshire Police was not renewed and he stepped down from that role to take up the job at Cleveland on a £155,000 salary.  “My reasons were clear to me then and are now. I wanted to avoid unnecessary, sensationalist coverage in the media. I regret that I gave any account at all as to why the damage was caused as there was no reason to do so as this was simple an accident.”This was a mistake and I could have handled it differently…I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not handling this matter differently.”Mike Veale and the Sir Edward Heath investigationMike Veale came in for criticism after spending two years and £1.5 million investigating historic claims against Sir Edward, despite the fact he had been dead for more than a decade.A report, published in October 2017 concluded that Sir Edward would have been questioned over allegations that he raped and indecently assaulted boys as young as 10 were he alive today.But the late former Prime Minister’s supporters dismissed the report as a “whitewash” that would leave a stain hanging over his reputation and legacy.The Telegraph later discovered that the main complainant against Sir Edward was a serial paedophile who is currently in jail for child sex offences and whose own family have dismissed his allegations as “fantasy and lies”. Sir Edward Heath He said at the time: “It is important to emphasise that during the time I led the Force through Operation Conifer, a highly politicised and nationally significant and sensitive investigation, I was regularly warned by close confidantes and members of the public I would be subject at some stage to vexatious and false allegations to tarnish my reputation. Sadly this has been the case.”Lincoln Seligman, Sir Edward’s godson, said: “I have every sympathy with Mr Veale’s golf bag rage but I have no sympathy with his suggestion of a widespread conspiracy to blacken his reputation.“Under his leadership Wiltshire police publicly invited and then implicitly endorsed the most serious of allegations against a former Prime Minister without adducing any credible evidence in corroboration. This, without any help from outside, will not have done his reputation much good.”Mr Veale was appointed Chief Constable of Cleveland Police in January this year before he was aware of the IOPC investigation. Mr Veale described the suggestion as “nonsensical” insisting he would not have damaged his own phone deliberately as he needed it.He told IOPC investigators: “The damage was caused to my phone as a result of me taking out my frustration with my poor play on my bag.”He explained that he had lied to colleagues about the incident because he was ashamed of losing his temper.Mr Veale said: “I was not proud of my behaviour on the golf course, particularly as a Chief Constable and leader of the organisation, hence the reason I decided to provide a different explanation for the damage.”The IOPC concluded there was no evidence that he had deliberately damaged his own phone to hide evidence and pointed to the fact that he had subsequently asked his IT department to retrieve all the data from the device.Responding to the IOPC’s findings, Mr Veale apologised for lying to colleagues, but insisted he had been out of a sense of embarrassment rather than anything more sinister. 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