Police chief who led inquiry into Ted Heath faces misconduct charges

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The police chief who led the sexual abuse investigation into the late former prime minister Sir Edward Heath is to face gross misconduct proceedings.

Mike Veale resigned as chief constable of Cleveland police in February 2019 after “serious allegations” about his behaviour.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) reportedly investigated allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues, discrimination and unprofessional behaviour, said to be of a “serious nature”, first reported in the Times.

Veale previously led Wiltshire police when they were investigating Heath, who was prime minister between 1970 and 1974 and led the Conservative party from 1965 until being replaced by Margaret Thatcher in 1975. Heath never married and at times his private life was the subject of lurid speculation. He died in 2005.

Allegations about the politician were investigated as part of Operation Midland, the Metropolitan police inquiry into historical claims of child abuse and related homicides. Operation Conifer, the arm of Operation Midland specifically focusing on Heath, found that there was no reason to suspect he had carried out a string of sexual assaults, but said he would have been interviewed if he were still alive.

The controversial investigation into Heath, which began in 2015, is estimated to have cost more than £1.2m.

An IOPC spokesperson said: “Our investigation was completed, and our report and findings were provided to the Cleveland police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in February. We found that there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Mr Veale had breached the standards of professional behaviour.

“Following discussion, we have accepted the then PCC’s determinations that Mr Veale should face proceedings for gross misconduct. The allegations relate to conduct between July and December 2018 when serving as Chief Constable.”

The spokesperson said it will be for the PCC to formulate the nature of the misconduct charges, based on the IOPC findings, and to bring those proceedings to a future misconduct hearing.

An previous investigation into Veale was launched in January 2018 by the IOPC following anonymous claims that he had damaged his police-issued mobile phone to hide contacts with “various parties” during Operation Conifer, which looked into claims about the late prime minister that were eventually dismissed.

The IOPC said in September that year there was no evidence that Veale had deliberately damaged the phone in order to hide information, but it reprimanded him for telling colleagues that it had been dropped in a golf club car park and inadvertently run over.

The police watchdog said he had a case to answer for misconduct for providing an inaccurate account of the incident, but Barry Coppinger, the Cleveland police and crime commissioner at the time, chose to resolve the case with “management action”.

This cast a shadow over his short stint at the helm of Cleveland police and when fresh allegations of a “serious nature” were referred to the IPOC in 2019, he resigned days later. Veale apologised for his actions after the watchdog made its ruling.

The IOPC said that all concerned parties had been notified of its decision.

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