THE Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland has resigned with immediate affect after being reported to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and his own office by the Chief Constable.

Barry Coppinger made the annoucement this morning just days after Richard Lewis called for an investigation into his conduct whilst in office.

The Labour-backed PCC has overseen the force through a number of scandals including hacking the phones of journalists and police officers, and allegations of racism within the force.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis's letter raised concerns about alleged unlawful and/or improper behaviour contrary to the Data Protection Act 2018 and/or the Freedom of Information Act 2000 believed to be in connection with his deletion of WhatsApp messages.

The Northern Echo: Chief Constable Richard LewisChief Constable Richard Lewis

Mr Coppinger, in a letter to the Chief Constable Richard Lewis, wrote: "I have felt under siege since the damning report into Cleveland Police 12 months ago, and have been working and making decisions while experiencing considerable, cumulative stress. It has reached the stage where this is now impacting upon my health.

"Recent events will only add to this and therefore I do believe it is better that I step aside now and allow someone else to take charge until the re-scheduled election in May 2021."

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has welcomed the move.

He said: “I am shocked and horrified that there is a criminal investigation into the alleged unlawful conduct of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

"The People of Teesside deserve a Police Force they can be proud of, instead what they have got under Barry Coppinger’s leadership is the UK’s worst force.

"A force which the recent PEEL report into Cleveland Police rated them ‘inadequate’ in all but two areas  – this happened on Barry’s watch and he should be ashamed of himself."

A statement released by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland reads: "The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, has resigned from his role with immediate effect.

"The OPCC Senior Management Team have the necessary delegations in the short-term to maintain business continuity, ensuring Police and Crime Plan priorities continue to be delivered.

"We will work with the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel in relation to their responsibility to appoint an Acting Police and Crime Commissioner from amongst the existing OPCC team and in accordance with the law.

"We have separately been informed that a regulatory process has commenced in respect of Commissioner Coppinger."

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