THE ex-crime boss at Cleveland Police will not be investigated by an independent watchdog after they ruled out any criminal offence.
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.
Now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that he has not committed a criminal offence.
The ICO were looking at allegations that Mr Coppinger may have acted unlawfully by deleting WhatsApp messages subsequent to the OPCC receiving a Freedom of Information request, to which these WhatsApp messages could have been relevant.
The ICO have confirmed that following a review and on the information currently known to them and material supplied to this point, it has been determined there exists no evidence of criminal intent to prevent disclosure of communications as requested. It has been further determined that the matter does not merit nor require further investigation and therefore the ICO will take no further action and the case will be closed.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said: “Having extended our full cooperation to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), we have received notification that the ICO have found that there exists no evidence of criminal intent in relation to the actions of former Commissioner Barry Coppinger. They have also separately determined that the matter neither merits nor requires further investigation.
“We thank them and the IOPC for their detailed assessments.
“Mr Coppinger has been informed of the outcome of both investigations and we will continue to ensure the appropriate support is available with regard to his wellbeing. We wish him well in his retirement.
“The OPCC will continue to extend its full cooperation and assistance to the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel in relation to their ongoing remit in this matter.
“Under Acting Commissioner Lisa Oldroyd we remain focused on working on behalf of the people of Cleveland to support victims, reduce offending, address community safety concerns and hold the police to account.”
Mr Coppinger said: “I am grateful for the diligence shown by the IOPC and the ICO in their investigations of the referrals made to them.
“I have maintained from the outset that at no stage did I seek to thwart any information request and I am pleased to have been exonerated so conclusively and in such a timely manner.
“I would like to thank all the partner organisations, community groups, officers and staff and individual members of the public who have taken the trouble to send me so many messages of support since I stood down. Also the staff at the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for the dedication they have shown during my time as Commissioner.
“It has been a tremendous honour to serve as Cleveland’s first elected Police and Crime Commissioner and to be re-elected. I am proud of the tremendous work we have carried out in supporting victims and vulnerable people, tackling re-offending and working in partnership with local communities.
“I wish the force all the best in its continuing journey of improvement. ”