TWO officers believed to be Superintendent rank and above were yesterday suspended from Cleveland Police in connection with an investigation into cops spying on journalists' phones.

The force confirmed today that two 'senior police officers' had been suspended, and a senior member of police staff 'temporarily redeployed into a restricted role' after the police watchdog confirmed it was investigating a number of former and serving officers last week.

Seven police officers, five of whom have now retired, are being investigated for gross misconduct over the way anti-terror laws were used to spy on former officers and journalists from The Northern Echo and the Press Association, as well as a solicitor working on behalf of the Police Federation.

The two officers suspected of leaking information to the press were Mark Dias, below left, and Steve Matthews, below right.

The Northern Echo:

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating Cleveland Police over its misuse of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court which regulates the use of surveillance powers by police and security services, found two years ago that the force had acted unlawfully when it monitored journalists' phones to try to find the source of several stories, including one which revealed there was institutional racism within the force.

Now the IOPC investigation will decide whether any criminal or misconduct action can be taken - although it said it is not a criminal investigation at this stage.

A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “Two senior police officers have been suspended and a senior member of police staff has been temporarily redeployed into a restricted role. This is in connection with an ongoing Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation being carried out by West Midlands Police.

“The decision to suspend two officers and redeploy a member of staff has not been taken lightly and represents a proportionate and balanced determination in the interests of all concerned.

"The decisions are made on an individual basis. Both are neutral acts and neither suspension nor redeployment are misconduct outcomes nor are they a presumption of guilt or a predetermination of the outcome of an investigation.

“Cleveland Police has a commitment to learning and improving and we recognise the importance to communities, complainants and our staff that these matters are resolved. To this end we continue to assist the IOPC and cooperate fully with investigators.”