OPERATION Sacristy was a dark cloud that hung over Cleveland Police for more than three years as the criminal investigation looked at corruption at the head of the force.

Launched in 2010, the 41-month investigation resulted in the sacking of its then chief and deputy chief constables and the resignation of the chairman of Cleveland Police Authority, Dave McLuckie.

Despite no criminal charges being brought against any of those arrested during the probe into the spending culture at the force, the investigation uncovered the abuse of corporate credit cards, expenses and hospitality.

As a result of the investigation, Sean Price and Derek Bonnard were both sacked for gross misconduct while Mr McLuckie was subsequently convicted of perverting the course of justice after he persuaded a friend to accept speeding points for him.

The force solicitor, Caroline Llewellyn, and the police authority’s chief executive, Joe McCarthy, were also amongst the nine people arrested during a series of raids as officers tried to sift through the complex set of allegations.

The three most senior ranking protagonists at the centre of the probe – Messrs Price, Bonnard and McLuckie – all proclaimed their innocence throughout.

Amongst the extravagant expenses claims submitted by the disgraced chief constable were for theatre tickets and a London hotel for him and his partner, Heather Eastwood, who was his staff officer at the time.

Foreign trips, restaurant bills and bar tabs also featured heavily in the investigation.

The figures showed that former Cleveland Police Authority chairman spent a total of £2,566.38 at just two restaurants on Teesside on his corporate credit card - £817.65 at Alessi's, in Saltburn, and £1,748.73 at Santoro, in Yarm, between March 2006 and March 2011.

Julie Leng, who was the former acting chief executive and now wife of Mr McLuckie, accrued a bill of £25,311.69 between January 2007 and March 2011.

Two trips to Denver, in 2007 and 2009, cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds to pay for people to attend an awards ceremony at the International Association for Women in Policing, and two years later for the International Association of Chief Police Officers conference.

The first trip incurred costs of £7,312.72, while the bill for the second visit totalled £18,015.49.

Officers involved in the investigation, conducted by Warwickshire Police, had painstakingly worked their way through hundreds of documents.

Despite months of work, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided there was not enough evidence of criminal activity to secure a guilty verdict in court.

However, a comprehensive break down of the investigation was published on the Cleveland Police website and Barry Coppinger, the Police and Crime Commissioner, published a statement saying the force had changed operating practices.

Keith Bristow, who led Operation Sacristy, said the investigation was carried out correctly and was fully justified despite it costing £4.6m.

In 2014 when the investigation was concluded, he said: “As a result of our investigation and an independent investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), a number of people have been removed from public office. The former Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable were both dismissed without notice for gross misconduct.

“The former Chair of the Police Authority resigned and was subsequently convicted of perverting the course of justice. Several other people who were subject of investigation and also held senior public positions have left their jobs with Cleveland Police and the former Police Authority.”