Disgraced former chief constable claims there was a 'witch-hunt' as criminal investigation ends without charge

Former Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price.

Former Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price.

First published in News
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Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

A DISGRACED former police chief has branded the criminal investigation into his alleged corrupt behaviour as a "witch-hunt" and compared it to policing methods portrayed in 1970s-based television series Life on Mars.

Sean Price was sacked as chief constable of Cleveland Police for gross misconduct in October 2012.

However, despite the 41-month probe not resulting in any criminal charges against any of the people arrested, the team behind Operation Sacristy deny that the investigation was flawed.

Mr Price, who has always maintained his innocence, was on police bail for more than two-and-a-half years following a dawn raid on his home in August 2011.

He said: “It was clear to me the investigation lacked focus and direction and was following rumour and speculation as if it were evidence.

"My advice, and that of others, was ignored and the investigators seemed blind to the facts, indeed they seemed to view everything through a distorted prism that had to find criminality at any cost it was back to the policing days of Life on Mars.

“No criminality has been found on my part because none ever existed. Having spent nearly 33 years being proud to be a police officer, I am very saddened that the police could have acted in such a way over such a long period of time.”

Mr Price’s claim that he had never been interviewed during the investigation where rubbished by the man who led the operation, Keith Bristow.

During a press conference, Mr Bristow, who is now the Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said Mr Price had been interviewed on several occasions and he was satisfied that the investigation had been carried out correctly.

Mr Price said: “I have maintained my innocence in these matters from the outset, and am of course pleased with the decision of the CPS. However, I think it is an absolute disgrace that I have been kept on bail for such a long period without even being spoken to.

“My extremely high profile arrest ruined my life and my reputation, and it is now clear for all to see that it was completely unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful. The ongoing and misguided criminal investigation has been a complete waste of £5m of public money.”

As well as leading to his instant dismissal from the force, the investigation also led to the resignation of Mr Price’s wife.

Detective Chief Inspector Heather Eastwood quit the force ahead of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) hearing into an allegation that she failed to inform her superiors when she was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in 2011.

The former officer, who married Mr Price in 2012, was arrested at Northallerton train station in 2011.

Mr Price spoke to several politicians throughout the probe who he says expressed concern about what appeared to be happening to him and is hoping they will now speak out in his defence.

He said: “Now is surely the time for them to ask for a full account of this shameful waste of public money, and finally stand up for the many people whose lives have been ruined by this vicious self-serving witch-hunt.

“I am very proud of the outstanding successes which were achieved during my time as Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, and I am very saddened that the events of the last two and a half years may have overshadowed the great work done by all the officers and staff during my time in the force.”

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