CLEVELAND Police buried an accusation of historic child abuse made against the then chair of Cleveland Police Authority (CPA), according to confidential documents obtained by The Northern Echo.
1 APRIL 2016 | BY Joe Willis FOR NORTHERN ECHO
An attempt was made to discredit the alleged victim and to put pressure on local authority officers who disclosed the claim, it is alleged.
The Echo can reveal for the first time today that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is examining allegations that in 2006 former Chief Constable Sean Price failed to launch an investigation or even register the accusation made against Dave McLuckie - who strongly denies any wrongdoing - on police computers.
The claim was made by a woman who alleged that Mr McLuckie sexually abused her when they were both teenagers three decades earlier.
It is claimed Mr Price – who also denies any wrongdoing – was made aware of the allegation by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council’s then chief executive in 2006.
However, it was not until 2014 when documents on the case were found locked away at Cleveland Police headquarters during Operation Sacristy, a major investigation into alleged corruption at the force, that proper procedures were finally followed.
The discovery prompted senior officers to hold a high-level meeting to discuss the abuse claim in December 2014.
A report following this meeting raised concerns that Mr Price failed to “instigate any trigger downward or make any recording decisions” after being notified of the claim.
There were “no indications” that he alerted any other senior officers, the documents add.
Instead, after Chief Constable Price was notified of the accusation, force solicitor Caroline Llewellyn is said to have written to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council defending Mr McLuckie and attempting to discredit the alleged victim.
Instead of a multi-agency approach to examine the claim, the council brought in children’s charity NSPCC to conduct a risk assessment with Mr McLuckie.
According to the documents, the police authority chairman refused to cooperate with the charity, which is denied by Mr McLuckie.
Following this process, the council concluded that he was not a risk to children.
In 2007 the documents state that Mrs Llewellyn again wrote to the council asking them not to identify the police authority chairman with regard to the abuse claim.
She also warned that Mr McLuckie would “hold the council liable of any detriment he suffers”.
Later that year, the council wrote to Mrs Llewellyn advising that the matter was closed.
The report from the 2014 meeting said that the alleged victim had been let down and had not received the correct level of service.
The report added: “Both the local authority and the police lost sight of the alleged victim at the most senior level of both organisations.
“Chief Constable Price was aware of the allegation and did not instigate any trigger downward or make any recording decisions.
“There are no indications that anyone else in the exec team or the force was aware of the allegations.”
The report adds that Mrs Llewellyn acted on behalf of the police authority but also appeared to be representing the chair of the police authority in a personal capacity.
The report also criticised the council saying it appeared the local authority had failed to instigate the correct safeguarding procedures because Mr McLuckie was a councillor and chair of the police authority.
At the time of the alleged failures, the current Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger was a member of the police authority and a paid political advisor at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.
However, he said he was unaware of the accusation prior to December 2014.
He said in a statement to the Echo: “I was not aware of the allegation until December 2014.
“I approved of the course of action taken by Cleveland Police, from that point forward, to progress the matter in a victim-focussed manner.”
In his response to the Echo, Mr McLuckie confirmed that in 2006 he was made aware by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council of a claim relating to when he was 14.
The 2014 report acknowledged that Mr McLuckie from the outset had dismissed the claim as “false and malicious”, saying it was based on a personal grievance.
“I made clear that I completely denied the claim,” he said in a written response to the Echo.
The former police authority chairman added that he “fully co-operated” with both the council and the NSPCC.
Mr Price was sacked by the force in 2012 after being found guilty of two charges of gross misconduct following the investigation into the recruitment of Mr McLuckie’s daughter.
He said in a statement to the Echo: “As Chief Constable I strove to ensure that Cleveland Police, working in partnership with other agencies, treated all allegations of sexual abuse most seriously, with the victim at the forefront of our approach. In doing so, I followed the correct processes and procedures in place at that time. “I completely deny any wrongdoing.”
The Echo has been unable to contact Ms Llewellyn.
A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “In December 2014, the then Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal was made aware of an allegation of historic sexual abuse that had been made against a man in 2006.
“The information available was reviewed and to ensure a thorough investigation of the allegation, the victim was spoken to so as to move any criminal investigation forward. This investigation has progressed as far as possible at this time and no arrests have been made, however police will look into any new information they receive.
“After reviewing the information provided in 2014 and after looking into how the allegation was handled in 2006, Mr Spittal proactively engaged with the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2015 and has continued to discuss this matter with the IPCC.”
The IPCC said in a statement: “The IPCC was made aware in October 2015, by Cleveland Police, of information relating to the way an allegation of historic sexual abuse that had been made against a man in 2006 had been handled.
“Operation Sacristy was a criminal investigation led by an outside force, into allegations against individuals linked with Cleveland Police Authority and Cleveland Police. The IPCC separately managed part of that investigation where it examined allegations of misconduct against police officers and staff.
“The IPCC is currently examining if these allegations were brought to our attention before 2015 and is engaging with the force to consider how to progress this matter going forward, if required.”