THE details of a specially commissioned report into a troubled police force’s use of ‘snooping’ powers will not be revealed until the conclusion of an independent corruption investigation.

Cleveland Police has spent almost £200,000 on the review of its use of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act legislation in its attempt to track down the sources of suspected leaks to the media.

And four years after the probe was launched the details are still to be made public until the Independent Office for Police Conduct concludes its Operation Forbes investigation into the unlawful use of the anti-terrorism legislation.

In a report signed off by the interim Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Lisa Oldroyd, it states: “The commitment to publish in full is undiminished and there is a clear commitment by the joint sponsors to do so at the conclusion of the IOPC managed investigation.

“This will remain subject to the ongoing caveat that the publication of the report will remain subject to the Chief Constable’s discretion as to operational sensitivity, and subject to other compelling public interest considerations.”

The Northern Echo: Lisa OldroydLisa Oldroyd

The reasoning behind the decision was explained in a document published by the PCC's office, it states

  •  Due to the ongoing nature of the IOPC managed investigation means that publication of material which relates to the substance of the investigation would or could be prejudicial to the investigation.
  • The IOPC managed investigation is considering matters that may result in proceedings and the investigation is still ongoing. The public interest in publishing the Weightmans LLP findings must be balanced with the public interest in ensuring that live investigations are not undermined or influenced by the Weightmans LLP Review report.
  •  The IOPC managed investigation is a live and in-depth investigation and release of the Weightmans LLP Review would therefore be inappropriate.

Barry Coppinger, the former police and crime commissioner for Cleveland, called in independent auditors to inspect the use of anti-terror legislation over a six-year period.

The move came in January 2017 after Cleveland Police was severely criticised at an Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London after it ruled the force used the RIPA legislation to find out the source of damaging leaks.

Snooping police officers seized more than a million minutes’ worth of call data from six people in 2012, which included the records of thousands of text messages and telephone calls of Northern Echo reporter Graeme Hetherington and former colleague Julia Breen.

The report says that total costs envisaged at the start of the review were £112,500 based on the review of 86 files containing use of the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000.

However following the commencement of the work a further 52 files were identified that required review to ensure that the review covered all of the known files. This increase in the number of files subject to review increased the overall budget for this work to £160,000.

And with the additional cost of £25,170 to carry out stakeholder reviews the total bill has come to £185,170.

The decision to delay publication of the report was announced just days before the HMICFRS published its independent review of the force following its damning inspection in 2019.

At the time, the independent police watchdog was highly critical of the lack of measures to tackle corruption in the force and said some senior officers were misleading the Chief Constable with incorrect information – and even gave HMICFRS inspectors themselves wrong information as they were being assessed.

The force remains in the equivalent of special measures while Chief Constable Richard Lewis continues his work to rebuild its tarnished reputation.

Concerns had been raised about the accurate recording of crimes and the management of complex cases, involving vulnerable adults and children.

The latest report from the HMICFRS reads: "We are pleased with the significant improvement the force has made in its overall recording of reported crime.

"The force has increased its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements, supported by good governance and audit.

"The force has made only marginal improvements to its poor recording standards for violent crime, particularly for domestic abuse-related crimes such as coercive controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking, and many serious crimes involving anti-social behaviour (ASB) are not being recorded or investigated.

"The overall quality of investigations has not yet improved. We found that less than half the force’s investigations are of a good overall standard, which is similar to our findings in 2019."