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Cleveland PCC rejects resignation call over 1990s police caution

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner has rejected calls to resign after confirming he was cautioned in the 1990s by police. It was a "minor incident which occurred in the last century".

Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner (Con) has rejected calls from an MP to resign over a historic police caution involving a former employer.

Mr Turner said it was a “minor incident” in a statement issued after Andy McDonald, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough, used parliamentary privilege to claim Mr Turner had been “sacked” by a former employer for “systematic theft”.

Parliamentary privilege enables MPs to say whatever they wish in the House of Commons without fear of being sued for defamation.

Mr McDonald, intervening on shadow cabinet office minister Cat Smith, had told the Commons chamber: “On the topic of police and crime commissioner elections, is she as staggered as I am to learn that the Conservative Party’s PCC for Cleveland, Steve Turner, who was elected earlier this year, was in fact sacked in the early 2000s for systematic theft of merchandise from his then employer, Safeway supermarket, at their Norton store?

“Does she agree with me that it’s totally untenable for someone who is engaged in such criminal behaviour to hold the position of PCC and he must resign from his role with immediate effect?”

Ms Smith replied: “I am as staggered as my honourable friend to learn that the Conservative Party’s police and crime commissioner for Cleveland was sacked for theft from a Safeway supermarket.

“And I’d certainly agree with him it is totally untenable for a criminal to hold the position of police and crime commissioner, and that if what my honourable friend has shared with the House is true then I would expect a resignation and a by-election for that police and crime commissioner with immediate effect.”

On Tuesday evening, Mr Turner issues a statement on Facebook rejecting the claims made by the MP – and also rejecting the call to resign.

The statement said: “In the late 1990s, I accepted a police caution in relation to an event at a supermarket store where I was employed. I voluntarily tendered my resignation shortly afterwards, and to reiterate I was not ‘sacked’ from this position.

"This challenging life lesson is something that has remained private over the years, so as not to impact on my family and friends.

"I have diligently followed all the relevant rules governing the appointment of PCCs and can confirm that this historic incident is not something which disbarred me from standing (or remaining) as PCC and occurred over 22 years ago.

"In fact, the insight it provided me on how people can make stupid mistakes informs the way I operate as a PCC. Indeed, I invest a significant amount of money in the rehabilitation of people in this area of work as a result of my insight - people make mistakes and I made mine decades ago. Since that time, I continued to forge a successful career in the retail industry and worked hard for many local communities, as a parliamentary employee and now as a PCC.

"I trust that the people of Teesside place this minor incident which occurred in the last century in its proper context; a stupid error and they support me in getting on with the job to which I was elected in a landslide.

"My time as PCC is certainly not at an end. I am close to publishing my first Police and Crime Plan, which sets out ten key priorities to improve policing and community safety across Cleveland. My immediate priority is to drive forward our response to serious violence and its impact on the lives of young people and their families.

"I’ll make a number of announcements in the coming weeks on how I’m investing funds in local community-based projects to prevent young people being drawn into a world of violence and serious harm.

"Whilst it’s important to reflect on past experiences good and bad, I remain focussed on the task at hand – how I can support Cleveland Police to improve and make our area a safer place to live and work.”

He added he will not be commenting further.

The incident is just the latest to hit Cleveland which remains in special measures after being rated as a failing force. It is also looking to find a repalcement for chief constable Richard Lewis who is joining another force.

The force’s head of communications resigned over making indecent images of children.

The previous PCC, Barry Coppinger, resigned in 2020 over the use of a mobile messaging app on a private phone.

The MP who made the allegations will not be explaining how he came by the information or why he chose to disclose it in the Commons.  

A spokesperson said: “Mr McDonald will not be commenting further at this time.”

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