AN interim police and crime commissioner has been appointed for Cleveland in the wake of Barry Coppinger's decision to resign last week after a criminal investigation was launched into his conduct.

Lisa Oldroyd will take over until the PCC elections next May.

Mr Coppinger has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after WhatsApp messages were deleted from his phone.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis' 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.

The former Labour commissioner said the stress of the role had been having an impact on his health and he had felt "under siege" since a damning report into Cleveland Police last year.

The Northern Echo: Former PCC Barry CoppingerFormer PCC Barry Coppinger

Yesterday, the police and crime panel unanimously voted to give Ms Oldroyd’s appointment the nod until elections in May 2021 after a 45 minute debate behind closed doors.

A report prepared for the meeting showed she has 18 years' experience working in crime and community safety - including working on community safety policies in local government for more than a dozen years.

Ms Oldroyd had also briefly worked as assistant chief executive in the Cleveland PCC office.

A personal statement described Ms Oldroyd as a “dedicated career public servant” - working on projects to prevent serious violence, violence against women and girls, as well as the roll-out of the “Heroin Assisted Treatment” project in Middlesbrough.

Ms Oldroyd’s statement added: “As a life-long resident of Cleveland, as well as a committed senior public servant, I feel it is both my personal and public duty to serve the community of Cleveland.”

Regulations dictate any acting commissioner has to be a member of staff in the office at the time of the appointment.

Simon Dennis, chief executive of the commissioner’s office, said officials had responded “magnificently in very unusual circumstances”.

“They view this proposal this evening as a team effort - and it’s our duty to deliver the police and crime plan which members endorsed a couple of meetings ago,” he added.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis said it was an “unusual set of circumstances” and told the panel he’d support the decision on whoever was appointed ahead of the vote.

The Northern Echo: Chief Constable Richard LewisChief Constable Richard Lewis

After the private session, panel chairman Cllr Tony Riordan confirmed Ms Oldroyd’s appointment had been backed unanimously.

Elections will be held for permanent position in May next year after the pandemic postponed this year’s vote.

Two candidates have thrown their hat in the ring for the role so far.

Former Stockton South MP and GP Paul Williams has been nominated as the Labour candidate.

Meanwhile, former Redcar and Cleveland councillor Steve Turner will contest the position for the Conservative party.