A Home Office statement has raised fears that suspended senior detective Ray Mallon faces a kangaroo court at his disciplinary hearing next month, which will keep him tied to the force and unable to stand for mayor of Middlebrough.

At an abuse of process hearing next month, Mr Mallon's lawyers plan to push for the disciplinary charges against him to be dropped, in the same way that the Crown Prosecution Service kicked out the criminal charges against him earlier this year.

This would allow Mallon to quit the force and stand in the Middlesbrough mayoral election in May.

But Home Office Minister John Denham has said that Hertfordshire Chief Constable Paul Acers - the man who will act as judge and jury at the hearing - has ruled against Mallon without even hearing the evidence.

Middlesbrough MP Ashok Kumar had written to Mr Denham in July asking questions about the delays and costs of the disciplinary probe, codenamed Eagle.

In his reply, dated December 10, Mr Denham told Dr Kumar: "The hearing has suffered delay following allegations from the defence team about abuse of process. The chair has now considered these and satisfied himself that they are unfounded."

The news has stunned Mr Mallon's legal team, which is currently preparing for an eight day abuse of process hearing listed to start on January 9 in front of Mr Acers, with both sides due to call witnesses.

"It would seem the hearing in January is little more than a kangaroo court," said Dr Kumar.

Mr Mallon's solicitor, Mike Hymanson, said he was deeply concern-ed at the information and had written to the Home Office and Mr Acers demanding an explanation.