IN a police career spanning four decades, Ron Hogg has found himself in many dangerous scrapes.

"I have been in lots of riots, chased by a woman with an axe, had a guy point a gun at me, but I wasn’t too worried at the time – perhaps I wasn’t bright enough to understand the danger,” he says, sitting in the conservatory of his Newton Aycliffe home with the heavy rain pelting on the glass roof.

But nothing has prepared him for the position he finds himself in now: battling motor neurone disease.

“A quarter to nine on the August 23 will be indelibly embedded on my mind as the doctor said ‘we think it’s motor neurone disease’,” he says, breathing shallowly but speaking with amazing composure. “That night I ended up in Darlington Memorial Hospital thinking how did this happen. It was like walking into a brick wall. It was shattering.

“I’ve always kept myself fit. I played rugby for lots of years and even on holidays I’d go down the gym lifting stupid weights, lifting barbells over 30kg with one arm.

“Now I can barely lift a drink.”

The Northern Echo: Ron Hogg after winning his second election in 2016. Picture: Stuart BoultonRon Hogg after winning his second election in 2016. Picture: Stuart Boulton

Mr Hogg has spent almost a lifetime planning operations – planning for a visit by Princess Diana, planning for the safety of England football fans at the 1992 World Cup, planning for Cleveland Police to find a way out of a £7.3m black hole, planning for a radical new approach to drugs. Now, with deep concern for his wife Maureen, he is planning how his own life might end.

Mr Hogg, who is 68 tomorrow and a proud Scotsman, said he would consider going to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

“I want to die in Scotland, but if the circumstances came together, I would look at it very, very carefully, yes,” he says, with a little self-deprecating humour. “Knowing me, I will get a decision-making matrix going.”

Referring to the house he bought in Aycliffe a year ago, he says: “We had all these criteria, and when a property checked enough boxes, we’d go and view it. If the condition starts to check the boxes, that’s when you’re going - and I’ve already got some of the boxes checked.

“I understand the need for rigour and strong scrutiny, and there are serious moral dilemmas, but it must be down to the individual who is suffering.

“At the start of life, we abort a birth under certain medical conditions; why shouldn’t we cut short the life at the other end of the spectrum?”

Mr Hogg’s father died in a nursing home, which resulted in two prosecutions for neglect, and his mother died after a battle with cancer. “The agonies she went through you would not wish on anyone,” he says. “You have to ask yourself what purpose was there in her life being extended, what value to her, what benefit to her family, and there was none.”

He cited the case of Mavis Ecclestone, 80, who a fortnight ago was acquitted of murdering her terminally ill husband, Dennis, after she gave him the medicines with which he took his life.

“What does Maureen have to go through if I am trapped in my body with no particular purpose?” he asks.

His chief executive, Steve White, has become acting Police and Crime Commissioner, partly to save the £1m expense of a by-election when the full election is due in May, and partly so that Mr Hogg can, if his condition allows, return to his desk “for one last day at least”.

Mr Hogg was planning to run for a third term of office after his Durham force received its fourth consecutive “outstanding” inspection report. He wants to use his office to campaign to raise awareness of the muscle wasting disease which affects 500 people in the North-East.

Police career

The Northern Echo: Ron Hogg in 1998Ron Hogg in 1998

BORN in Stirlingshire, Mr Hogg studied politics at York University, and spent five years as teacher before joining Northumbria Police.

In 2002, he led the British police operation at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, when England were knocked out in the quarter finals by Brazil. “It was an incredible four weeks, and I’ve still got a letter from the police superintendent in Osaka describing the English football fans as ‘gentlemen’,” he says.

Always ambitious, he became Durham’s assistant chief constable in 1998, and then moved to Cleveland in 2003, where he discovered a £7.3m black hole in the finances.

He retired from the force in 2008 after 30 years.

Cleveland Police

MR Hogg says he feels sorry for the frontline officers at his former force but breaking it up isn’t the answer to its multifarious problems.

“There’s much more traditional organised crime in Cleveland,” he says. “Middlesbrough has one of the highest rates of drug induced deaths in the country, at 118 per million of population, whereas it is 82 for the whole of the North-East.”

His consultations showed people wanted to be policed from Middlesbrough rather than further away.

Of last week’s inspectorate report, which showed Cleveland to be inadequate across all areas, he says: “It is sad, but it is blueprint for what needs to be done. The community needs to get behind Barry Coppinger (the PCC) and Richard Lewis (chief constable) and really turn things around - all Ben Houchen (the Tees Valley mayor) has done is criticise. I haven’t seen him extend the hand of friendship or cooperation.”

Police Commissioner

ON retiring in 2008, Mr Hogg wanted to rekindle his interest in politics and joined the Labour Party with a view to be becoming a county councillor, but in 2012, the first elections for the new post of PCC were held.

He was elected for a second time in 2016 with 64 per cent of the vote – the highest in the country, although the turnout was only 17.7 per cent.

For the last four consecutive years, Durham has received the unprecedented rating of being “outstanding”, an achievement of which Mr Hogg is very proud.

He feels Durham made bold decisions when faced with austerity.

“A lot of forces got rid of community policing, but we maintained it because that’s what the public wanted,” he says. “We’ve lost 370 officers since 2010. The austerity has done immeasurable damage - what if the money had stayed with us and we had made radical decisions, where could we be now? Sadly we have lost a generation.”

He has been working on getting the victim heard in the judicial process, and on introducing community-based sentences to reduce reoffending, although he is best known for his campaign to radically change Britain’s drug laws (see tomorrow’s paper).

Motor neurone disease

HE first noticed his right arm shaking in December and sought medical advice, but matters came to ahead in June when one morning he couldn’t raise his right hand to shave. Further tests ensued, and on August 23 he received the shattering diagnosis.

Since June he has lost three stone and five inches off his chest, and he is interested in how the disease seems to disproportionately affect fit people – the Scottish rugby player, Doddie Weir, is another high profile sufferer.

“Both my parents were 87 when they died, I thought ‘you’ve got another 20 years here, Hoggy’, but I haven’t and certainly not many healthy years,” he says.

“The future is very scary. You are looking at two to five years from the first signs, so I’m well into the first year of that. All you know is that you’re not going to get better.”

He has spent the six weeks since his diagnosis with Maureen “attempting to get our heads around it”, and is desperately saddened by the toll on her. “This isn’t how she planned her last few years,” he says.

He shows extraordinary composure during nearly two hours of interview, but talking about Maureen and how he was expecting to fight a third election in May, it begins to slip.

“There’s so much more to do, I wanted another term. I think I could have made significant difference to people’s lives,” he says, his voice getting weaker.

“I just need to grow up,” he says, pulling himself together. “The specialist said that it’s how you respond to this situation, keep active, and I hope that at least for one day to sit in my office again - although I won’t have a suit to fit.

“I’ve got to continue to make an impact while I can, make every day count - that’s what I want to do.”