Exclusive: Durham Police face prospect of inquiry after complaints over Dominic Cummings probe

Martin Evans
Dominic Cummings leaves his home on
Dominic Cummings leaves his home on
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The police chief who carried out the investigation into Dominic Cummings is now facing the prospect of an inquiry over her force’s handling of the matter, The Telegraph can reveal.

Durham Police have received a number of complaints from members of the public angry at the way the investigation was dealt with.

The complaints came after the force announced that Mr Cummings might have committed a minor breach of the lockdown rules when he drove to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday.

It is understood some of the complaints are against Durham’s Chief Constable, Jo Farrell, who was appointed to the top job last summer.

The complaints have been passed to the Force’s professional standards department and they will now be assessed before a  decision is made whether to take the matters further.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will also be informed in line with the usual process, but a spokesman for the watchdog said no referrals had yet been made.

It is not clear at this stage whether the complaints are from people angry that the police decided to investigate Mr Cummings in the first place, or whether they are from people upset at the findings of the probe and the decision not to take any further action against him.

A number of complaints have also been lodged against the force’s acting police and crime commissioner, Steve White, who last week wrote to Ms Farrell urging her to launch the investigation into Mr Cummings.

Durham’s police and crime panel will now assess the validity of the complaints against Mr White, who took over as temporary PCC following the death of his predecessor, Ron Hogg in December.

Last week he publicly called for the force to carry out a criminal investigation into Mr Cummings, insisting it was important to maintain public confidence in the police.

In a letter to Ms Farrell he said the inquiry was vital to establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law or regulations by the Prime Minister’s most senior aide.

On Monday Durham Constabulary confirmed it was investigating the matter following a series of complaints from members of the public.

On Thursday Durham Police said Mr Cummings’ 50-mile round trip to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, which he claimed had been in order to test his eyesight, “might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention.”

The Force said that it viewed the matter as minor because Mr Cummings, who admitted sitting by the River Tees in Barnard Castle for 15 minutes, had not breached social distancing.

Durham Constabulary said in line with its policy throughout the pandemic, it did not intend to take any retrospective action against Mr Cummings.

The Force also said it did not consider Mr Cummings' decision to travel 250 miles from his home in north London to his parents’ farm in Durham to be against the rules.

A source said: “It is ironic that while the person at the centre of this  has now moved on, the police force who carried out a professional investigation could now be under the spotlight.”

The Telegraph understands around 10 complaints have been received in total.

A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “There is currently no investigation into the Force’s handling of this inquiry.”

On Friday night, it emerged that Theresa May had launched an attack on Mr Cummings in a statement to constituents. The former prime minister said she did not feel the adviser had abided by the "spirit" of the guidance and expressed concern that the episode was distracting from the public health effort, according to the Daily Mirror.