An MP has described the decision to close his complaint against Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner with no further action as a ‘farce’.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald contacted the Cleveland Police and Crime panel after finding himself on the receiving end of “wild” social media accusations made by Conservative PCC Steve Turner.

The cross-party watchdog said the complaint was “valid” but its hands were tied in terms of resolving the matter.

Following an unsuccessful attempt at “informal resolution”, the panel said there was further course of action available and the case was discontinued.

Mr McDonald subsequently described the process as “deeply worrying with more than a hint of farce” while Mr Turner responded by saying the Labour MP “should put his big boy pants on”.

Mr Turner, who has been PCC since May 2021, wrote a Facebook post after allegations of failing to disclose financial interests against former Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston were dropped.

The PCC claimed Mr Preston joined a “not so exclusive club” of individuals reported to the police by members of the Labour Party “when they seem to know full well that no wrongdoing has taken place”.

Mr Turner referenced an inquiry launched into Teesworks, spearheaded by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, after Mr McDonald aired his views in parliament on the scheme, as Labour also demanded an investigation.

The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve TurnerMiddlesbrough MP Andy McDonald and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner (Image: LDR)

He added: “I think that, when the allegations made by Middlesbrough MP against Ben Houchen also prove to be false, then it will be time for us to seriously consider whether a formal complaint about wasting police time is necessary given the evidence available and the repeated misuse of his position and potential misconduct in public office.”

Mr McDonald contacted the police and crime panel over the comments which he said had amounted to “a reprehensible crossing of the line of the office of PCC by Mr Turner into operational policing that is simply unacceptable.” Cleveland Police and Crime Panel is responsible for the scrutiny of the PCC.

However, unless a complaint amounts to a criminal offence in its own right, the only route generally available is informal resolution, it said. Mr McDonald had accepted a proposal to take part in informal mediation with the commissioner so long as the Facebook post was removed and an apology was issued.

In his response to the panel, Mr Turner claimed the complaint had been “vexatious” and indicated he would not be willing to meet Mr McDonald to resolve the matter. The panel noted a “history of animosity” between the two men and noted that their positions in terms of the issue were “poles apart”.

Concluding, the watchdog said there was no alternative course of action that it could take in order to resolve this matter and acknowledged it was a “frustrating situation” for both itself and Mr McDonald.

Chair of the panel, Cllr Tony Riordan, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Unless a complaint involves allegations of a crime being committed by the Police and Crime Commissioner, the general position is that the legislation requires the panel to attempt to resolve complaints by a process of informal resolution. In this case, the panel could see no way in which this could be achieved.”

Mr McDonald said: “It is deeply worrying with more than a hint of farce about it that the Conservative Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner publicised his dreadful and unfounded slurs against me and can effectively decide whether or not action is taken against him when a complaint in made against him.

"In this case the matter was the clear trespass into the independence of professional operational policing but it would apply to other complaints that any member of the public might make to the panel about the PCC.

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“By an extension of this tortured logic, does Steve Turner, who is supposed to hold Cleveland Police to account, think that those accused of crime should be able to decide whether or not they should face any investigation?

"Clearly the other issue at play here is that the police and crime panel should be given the powers to investigate and sanction police and crime commissioners as appropriate.”

In response, Mr Turner said: “The panel’s version of ‘valid’ just means they were the right body to complain to. The very fact that there was no action they could take shows what a ridiculous claim Mr McDonald made in the first place and what a complete waste of time and public money he generated.

“The currently suspended Labour MP should spend more time focusing on his constituents than he does obsessing about ways to try and criticise me. To use a phrase he’s fond of, its time he put his big boy pants on and stopped moaning about his hurt feelings.”