A data protection watchdog is ‘making inquiries’ over issues relating to WhatsApp messages between the former crime commissioner, his chief of staff and the Cleveland Police chief.
Barry Coppinger resigned as Police and Crime Commissioner role in early September after eight turbulent years in the role.
Citing stress as his reason for leaving, he also defended his use of Whatsapp in his resignation letter after it emerged that police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC) was looking into his use.
It is understood that a request was made to delete messages in a group, which also included Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner chief executive Simon Dennis and the Chief Constable Richard Lewis, every week.
It’s also believed Mr Lewis questioned the need to delete messages and left the group when a Freedom of Information request regarding correspondence was submitted.
The chief constable wrote to the PCC’s office and the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC).
Teesside Live has now been told the matter was also referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The ICO is the UK’s independent authority which upholds information and data privacy rights in the public interest.
An ICO spokesperson said: “In response to concerns raised with us we are currently making inquiries to establish whether potential offences contrary to s77 of the Freedom of Information Act may have been committed by the former Police and Crime Commissioner in Cleveland.
“Once we have the necessary information we will make a further assessment.”
On its website, the ICO said it provides advice and instruction to help organisations help get things right in the future, but can also take enforcement action.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said a report was made to the 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,” she said.
“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.”