TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen last night called on the appointment of an under-investigation police chief.

Cleveland's new Chief Constable Mike Veale is facing a misconduct investigation relating to the inquiry into allegations of abuse against former prime minister Edward Heath.

Mr Veale was confirmed as the embattled force's top officer just last week, is being investigated by the police watchdog the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IPOC).

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Mr Houchen said: “Let’s be clear, this is a Chief Constable who spent millions of taxpayers’ money on a witch hunt against Sir Edward Heath, and refused to apologise or acknowledge his part in the ridiculous debacle.

“We now find that Mr Veale is subject to a misconduct investigation by the police watchdog, and that this was known to Cleveland’s Police Commissioner before appointing him.

“Mike Veale shouldn't be taking charge, and Barry Coppinger and Cleveland Police really need to seriously reconsider appointing him.

“I have absolutely no faith that our new Chief Constable will be able to provide the support that is required for our frontline police officers to fulfil their duty to protect the public.”

Mr Coppinger, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, said today he was aware of the ongoing inquiry even when the selection was made.

The IOPC is looking into claims he deliberately damaged a police-owned mobile phone.

Angus Macpherson, the Police and Crime Commissioner of Mr Veale's previous force Wiltshire, said his contract had not been renewed there because of the investigation..

Mr Veale had faced earlier criticism over his force's handling of the Heath inquiry Operation Conifer.

But Mr Macpherson said nothing in the allegations caused him concern about the outcome of that investigation.

Mr Coppinger said: “Mike Veale was appointed as the next Chief Constable of Cleveland Police following a rigorous recruitment process in which the shortlisted candidates were considered by an interview panel, a panel of stakeholders and finally the Police and Crime Panel. “Mike has a vast range of police experience, including as a detective and senior investigator, chief officer and, for the past two years, Chief Constable of Wiltshire.

"I was aware of the ongoing complaint to the IOPC concerning his time at Wiltshire Police and took professional advice on the issue. This matter has no bearing on my confidence in Mike or my decision to recommend him for the office of Chief Constable.

“I will seek to be kept informed of progress with regards to the ongoing IOPC independent investigation; however this will not prevent Mike from taking up his new office pending agreement on timings with Wiltshire Police.

“I remain certain in my belief, based on Mike’s record and reputation, that he is the right person to take on the office of Chief Constable and I look forward to him starting at the earliest opportunity.”

A statement from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said: "We received a referral from the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2017 detailing anonymous allegations about Chief Constable Mike Veale relating to Wiltshire's investigation into Sir Edward Heath.

"After a thorough assessment, we decided the part of the referral relating to the disclosure of confidential information was insufficient to indicate either a criminal offence may have been committed or a breach of professional standards.

"That matter has been returned to the Police and Crime Commissioner to deal with in any manner determined appropriate.

"The IOPC has however decided to independently investigate a second part of the referral relating to allegations that a mobile phone belonging to Wiltshire Police was deliberately damaged by Chief Constable Mike Veale.

"This investigation is in its early stages."

Mr Macpherson said he received an anonymous letter making "a series of allegations" against Mr Veale and said, although he had "every confidence in him", it would not have been appropriate to renew his contract until the investigation was complete.