A former chief constable has categorically denied making any inappropriate sexual comments towards senior colleagues claiming he would have been ‘mortified’ if he had caused offence.

Mike Veale, formerly of Cleveland Police, told a misconduct hearing that he believed complaints could have been made against him after he implemented radical changes to the troubled force’s senior management.

In a letter to the-then police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger in January 2019 where he said he had heard on the ‘rumour mill’ that allegations of a sexual nature had been made against him.

Mr Veale apologised to the PCC if he had caused any offence but during a fractious exchange with the PCC office’s barrister, he denied that he had apologised for making any sexual comments.

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The 57-year-old accepted that his language and humour may have caused offence but was adamant that he had never made any inappropriate sexual comments during his ten-month tenure.

Mr Veale is accused of telling a female colleague to ‘go on you can touch yourself’ after reading out a complimentary email while travelling to a meeting in October 2018.

A couple of months later, an officer, known as Witness C, said his ex-boss said ‘these two are bedfellows metaphorically or otherwise’ before laughing when talking about the two officers in front of other senior colleagues.

Giving evidence during his misconduct hearing, the ex-Cleveland Police boss said he was shocked to learn that complaints had been made against him.

The Northern Echo: Former Cleveland PCC Barry CoppingerFormer Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger

He said the two witnesses, who cannot be named, were highly regarded officers and used to the term ‘bedfellows’ to show that they were working with a common goal and not as an innuendo.

Mr Veale categorically denied making the sexual comment to the female officer while they were in a car together and they had continued to work closely together in the following months without problem.

The retired senior officer said he could have an abrasive management style but he was dealing with a force in crisis and was attempting to get it back on track despite finding major problems on a daily basis.

He added: “I was animated and robust about some of the things I was uncovering, some of the people involved and some of the processes I was uncovering.”

The hearing was told how he regarded his relationship with the officers as professional and convivial but accepted the female officer had reacted angrily to the use of the term ‘bedfellow’.

He told the disciplinary panel that he was ‘bewildered’ by her reaction and urged her to Google the definition of the term.

The Northern Echo: Current PCC for Cleveland Steve TurnerCurrent PCC for Cleveland Steve Turner (Image: Picture: CLEVELAND POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER)

During questioning from Dijen Basu KC, representing Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, the former chief constable admitted that he regretted using the term ‘maliciously motivated and disingenuous’ in his response to the allegations.

“I did not believe for one second that the PCC believed that I was engaged in any form of gross misconduct,” he said.

“I was aware that I had upset a number of people with the actions I was taking, the way that I was addressing the problems within Cleveland Police.

“I knew I had upset plots of people who would disbenefit from the decisions I was making.

“I would have been mortified if I had upset people but I wanted to move on.”

Within days, Mr Veale wrote to the PCC’s office to inform them that he intended to retire from the post.

When asked why he had used the term ‘bedfellows’, Mr Veale replied: “It was a term that I have used countless times, there was no double meaning at all in my intention of saying it.”

The ex-officer said he was disappointed that the Independent Office for Police Conduct, who carried out the investigation, had not interviewed other senior officers or staff members present when the alleged phrase was used.

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Asked why he hadn’t called them as witnesses, he said: “I didn’t think for one second that any action I have taken would have resulted in this hearing.

“I was confident that the truth will out.”

Mr Veale said he chose to resign when it was suggested to him that he would be suspended while an investigation was carried out into the allegations.

He added: “It was strongly suggested that if I didn’t resign or retire, I would be suspended. There was no lead up to it, it came out of the blue.”

The hearing continues.