DISGRACED former Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price wrote private letters to Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Barry Coppinger urging him not to continue with a legal bid to recover £464,000, The Northern Echo can reveal.

In 2013, Mr Coppinger launched legal action to recover money from Mr Price which he claimed was unlawfully paid by the former Cleveland Police Authority.

Court papers show that extensive work went into preparing a case to recoup the money.

However, in December 2014 Mr Coppinger agreed to settle out-of-court, with Mr Price agreeing to pay back just £23,000.

Today the Echo can reveal that in December 2013 Mr Price wrote to Mr Coppinger's home address urging the PCC not to pursue the legal claim.

There is no suggestion that the letters influenced the PCC's decision to settle out-of-court.

However, the letters highlight the long-standing close links between former senior officers and the politicians who ran the force.

In the confidential letters, which the Echo obtained using freedom of information powers, Mr Price thanks Mr Coppinger for his "support and friendship" in the months after Mr Price's arrest as part of the Operation Sacristy investigation into police corruption.

In one letter, Mr Price warns Mr Coppinger that the media coverage of the case will be "disastrous for everyone concerned" if it goes to court.

Mr Price says the decision to pay him and other officers both retention payments and honoraria was a decision made by the whole police authority after taking the "appropriate legal advice".

He says that he remains proud of what they achieved together, however he adds: "Unfortunately, despite the process which was followed at that time, you have now been put in the position of saying the authority's decision was flawed and that the monies should be repaid."

He continues: "These are large sums of money which, several years down the line, I obviously no longer have."

Mr Price says that proceeding to trial "is a no win situation for either of us".

He adds: "The trial will involve you and I, and many members of the force and authority, and the former chair of the authority, spending hours in the witness box as our roles in this matter are put under the microscope.

"The integrity and judgement of all witnesses will be called into question, including ourselves.

"I am sure I will be questioned in depth about foreign travel, credit cards and the relationship with my wife.

"You, and other members of the authority, will be questioned about the decision to pay me a retention package, your relationship with the then chair, and your apparent lack of scrutiny over what you say was my, and his, improper expenditure."

Mr Coppinger handed the letters to his solicitor, who twice wrote to Mr Price’s legal representatives asking him to stop writing to the PCC personally.

Mr Coppinger's solicitor later presented Mr Price’s letters to the court and the judge also advised that Mr Price must stop writing to the PCC.

In his response to the Echo, Mr Price said: "As outlined many times previously, my aim was to prevent further waste of public money, following the £5m expenditure on Operation Sacristy."

The out-of-court settlement was agreed days after the senior officers at Cleveland Police and the PCC held a meeting to discuss Mr Price's alleged failure to properly deal with an allegation of sexual abuse against the former chair of Cleveland Police Authority Dave McLuckie.

Mr Coppinger this week stressed that the decision to settle was in the public interest and he had published the full reasons behind the move at the time.