THE Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is looking into whether an investigation into the alleged actions of a former police and crime commissioner warrants a potential criminal investigation.
Barry Coppinger resigned from his role with Cleveland Police four weeks ago and it can now be confirmed the ICO has been in contact with the force after he was reported for deleting a number of WhatsApp messages and possibly breaching data laws.
An ICO spokesperson said: “We are aware of this and we are making enquiries.”
Last month, it was revealed how the force’s own Chief Constable Richard Lewis raised concerns about Mr Coppinger’s behaviour with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said: “We are aware that a report was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last month.
“They have since notified us that they are looking into a potential breach with regard to a request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act.
“It is important that we emphasise that the ICO have not indicated to the OPCC that they are investigating any individual(s).
“We extend our full co-operation to the ICO and will continue to assist them with any enquiries they need to make.”
The Labour-backed former PCC had overseen the force through a number of scandals including hacking the phones of journalists and police officers, and allegations of racism within the force.
Mr Coppinger said he resigned due to the stress of the role and has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that the deleted messages were not of a sensitive nature but were “of a mundane, logistical nature”.
The IOPC confirmed it was still assessing the nature of the allegations.
A spokesperson said: “We are thoroughly assessing the referral from the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel relating to the former Police and Crime Commissioner. We will make a decision on whether it is necessary for the IOPC to investigate this matter in due course.”
Mr Coppinger had planned to step down from the role at the planned election in May but agreed to stay on for another year after they were cancelled due to the ongoing Covid crisis.