CLEVELAND Police were under pressure last night to bring in an outside force to investigate an alleged cash-for-guns scandal.

The force's credibility was being questioned after chief constable Sean Price announced yesterday that there would be an internal inquiry.

He told the police authority he had appointed his deputy, Ron Hogg, to investigate claims that police encouraged the loan of £600 for sawn-off shotguns to a man who was later charged with, and acquitted of murder.

James Watson, solicitor to businessman Joe Livingstone, who contacted the force when notorious armed robber Keith McQuade approached him for the cash, said: "What possible credibility can there be in a Cleveland constabulary investigation as to whether they are guilty of a cover-up?

"The facts of this case demand that an external investigation and nothing less is suitable.

It is alleged that Mr McQuade asked Mr Livingstone for a loan to buy shotguns weeks before Middlesbrough man Lee King was shot dead, early in 2000.

Mr McQuade was arrested and charged with murder but acquitted at the subsequent trial.

The announcement was made yesterday at a special meeting of Cleveland Police Authority, which even raised questions among members.

Teesside magistrate and authority member Alf Illingworth said: "I have no doubt that Ron will use his wealth of experience to carry out the inquiry to the best of his endeavours, but there is a question mark over the police being judge and jury in its own camp."

Mr Price reassured the public the inquiry would be impartial.

He said: "I believe this can be best achieved by a formal investigation into the matters surrounding the police use of informants in this case and the actions of Cleveland Police in becoming aware of the information concerning Keith McQuade's alleged attempts to procure firearms."