Disgraced top cop pays back £23,000

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Cleveland Police which was suing its former chief constable for £500,000 has settled out of court for less than 5% of the figure, it has emerged.

The force was trying to claw back salary and bonuses it believed Sean Price was wrongly paid across a number of years before he was sacked for gross misconduct in 2012.

The civil case was due to be heard next month but police and crime commissioner (PCC) Barry Coppinger said Mr Price’s offer of £23,000 had been accepted.

That was due to mounting legal costs during a time of budget pressures and having consideration for Mr Price’s ability to pay more.

In a document on the PCC’s website, Mr Coppinger said the case against Mr Price was based on the legal argument that the payments were originally made “by mistake of law”.

He accepted the £23,000 offer was a “modest proportion” of what had been hoped for, but it was made in good faith, with reference to his ability to pay.

Mr Price, a father of two, has allowed the force to see financial documents, the PCC said.

Mr Coppinger said: “I concluded that I faced a choice either to accept the sum which Mr Price had demonstrated he could afford or proceed to court, risking an estimated overall six-figure sum in court costs which was unlikely to be realistically recoverable.”

He said the force had already spent about £30,000 on external barristers’ fees – £7,000 more than Mr Price’s settlement.

He added that other PCCs and forces had considered similar civil claims before deciding not to proceed.

Mr Coppinger said the payments Mr Price received were investigated under the wide-ranging Operation Sacristy inquiry into alleged corruption, but did not result in criminal charges.

He said: “Although ending the claim will mean that the court will not have the opportunity to address the legal questions, taking all of the considerations in the round I have determined that it would be appropriate to conclude the matter on the basis of the payment of the sum offered.”

Mr Price said in a statement: “This was a difficult decision for me as I had a strong case that the payments were lawful and should not be repaid 10 years later.

“However, the case has cost me several thousand pounds already and the public a great deal more. The only people benefiting have been lawyers.

“I made the decision that the best course of action was to settle now to prevent the costs escalating further.

“Notwithstanding our differences, I would like to pass my best to all at Cleveland Police in dealing with the financial challenges facing the force in the future.”

Mr Price was the first chief constable in 35 years to be sacked. An inquiry found he lied about his role in the recruitment of the former police authority chairman’s daughter.

Chief Constable suspended

West Yorks Chief Constable Mark Gilmore - suspended
West Yorks Chief Constable Mark Gilmore – suspended

The chief constable of West Yorkshire Police has been suspended pending an investigation by his former force in Northern Ireland.

Mark Gilmore, who grew up in Belfast and spent most of his police career in Northern Ireland, was suspended by the West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

In a statement, the PCC said: “This morning I suspended the chief constable of West Yorkshire, Mark Gilmore.

“The reason for this suspension is as a result of information I have received from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) arising from an investigation announced by them earlier this week.

“I would like to stress that the suspension of the chief constable is a necessity in the public interest until the full facts have been established.

“I have also referred this matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

“I sincerely hope that the PSNI investigation is concluded quickly in a way that could allow me to lift the suspension and Mr Gilmore to return to his post and continue the vital work to ensure communities are safer and feel safer.

“I will be keeping the suspension under review as the PSNI investigation proceeds and in the meantime I have asked deputy chief constable, Dee Collins, to act up as chief constable for West Yorkshire.

“It would be inappropriate for me to make any further comments at this time.”

Mr Gilmore, born in 1964 and from the Shankill Road area of Belfast, attended the University of Ulster and Harvard in the United States.

He joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1983, which has since become the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

According to the West Yorkshire Police website, during his 29 years as an officer “he has gained wide policing experience in roles such as uniform beat and patrol, drug squad, criminal investigation, intelligence, HQ management posts, roads policing, tactical support groups, firearms and public order”.

He was part of the RUC’s Fundamental Review Team in 1995, led by the then deputy chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan. Its work played a major role in the reform of operational policing in Northern Ireland.

His career progressed, working as a staff officer for the deputy and then the chief constable before promotion to chief inspector and road policing commander for the Greater Belfast area.

Mr Gilmore then became a superintendent and as the commander for the Belfast Region Tactical Support Group, he took charge of a number of major public order deployments.

He was further promoted, working in Lisburn, went on secondment with Lancashire Police and in 2008 he was appointed as chief of staff to Acpo president Sir Ken Jones.

Five years ago he became assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, then deputy chief of Northumbria Police in 2011.

He was appointed as the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police last year, replacing Sir Norman Bettison.

Mr Gilmore, married with two grown up sons, is a keen runner and enjoys sailing.

An IPCC spokesman said: “The IPCC has received a referral from the police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire that relates to the conduct of West Yorkshire Police’s chief constable.

“An assessment is being carried out to determine whether there is any requirement for an IPCC investigation or oversight.”

It is understood the move has been prompted by a PSNI investigation into the awarding of police vehicle contracts in Northern Ireland.

Seven men were arrested by detectives working on the case this week and questioned on suspicion of offences including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office.

Mr Gilmore was not one of those detained.

Retired PSNI assistant chief constable Duncan McCausland was arrested.

After he was released last night, pending a report being sent to prosecutors for assessment, Mr McCausland strenuously denied wrongdoing and stressed his determination to prove his innocence.

Two civilian suspects, aged 34 and 54, detained in England and taken to Northern Ireland for questioning have also been released pending reports to prosecutors.

As have a 48-year-old serving police officer and a 37-year-old civilian member of police staff in Northern Ireland. Both have been suspended from work.

Another man arrested in Northern Ireland, a 62-year-old civilian, has also been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

A 71-year-old civilian arrested in Co Down on Thursday remained in police custody this evening.