ONE of the investigations into the alleged behaviour of a former police and crime commissioner has concluded he has no case to answer.
Barry Coppinger resigned from his post at Cleveland Police in September after the Chief Constable Richard Lewis called for an investigation into his conduct whilst in office.
Mr Lewis raised concerns about alleged unlawful and/or improper behaviour in connection with his deletion of WhatsApp messages and whether he breached Freedom of Information offences and data breaches.
The case was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which has concluded that Mr Coppinger did nothing wrong.
An IOPC spokesperson said: “The complaint suggested that Mr Coppinger introduced a policy where WhatsApp messages should be deleted, which may have prevented full disclosure obligations when responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and deleted WhatsApp messages in order to avoid disclosure under the Act.
“Following a thorough assessment, we have decided we will not be investigating the complaint as, in our view, it does not constitute or involve, or appear to constitute or involve, a criminal offence.
“The information provided suggests the new WhatsApp policy was introduced prior to the relevant FOI request being received and that messages were deleted in line with that policy.
“We are therefore required to return this matter to Cleveland Police and Crime Panel to be handled in a reasonable and proportionate manner.”
In September, 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”.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said: “We note that the IOPC has informed the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel that they do not consider it necessary for former Commissioner Barry Coppinger to be investigated.
“We will continue to extend our full cooperation and assistance to both the Panel and the Information Commissioner in relation to their ongoing remits in this matter.”
However, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is still looking into whether an investigation into the alleged actions of Mr Coppinger warrants a potential criminal investigation.
An ICO spokesperson said: “In response to concerns raised with us we are currently making enquiries 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.”