Chief constable lied about accidentally smashing his work phone with a golf club
Data retrieved from the former chief constable of Wiltshire Police’s mobile phone showed he was not motivated to conceal information when his police-issue device was damaged.
Mike Veale was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after anonymous allegations were made that he had deliberately smashed the phone to hide his contact with various parties over the force’s inquiry into child abuse claims against Sir Edward Heath.
Mr Veale repeatedly told colleagues that the phone had been dropped in a golf club car park and run over by a car, but he later admitted to IOPC investigators that the damage had been caused when he swung a club at his golf bag in frustration at playing a poor shot.
He then arranged for the data to be retrieved from the phone, which showed he had no motive for deliberately damaging the device.
The IOPC said the investigation “has not identified any cogent evidence to substantiate the allegation of criminal damage” and there was not a case to answer for discreditable conduct, but that there was a case for misconduct over lying about how the phone was damaged.
Mr Veale had been playing a game of golf on Saturday September 23, 2017, and three witnesses corroborated his later account of how the phone was accidentally damaged (although they could not be certain of the date). An IT contractor has also confirmed that the phone had a curved appearance as though it had not been on a completely flat surface when the damage occurred.
Mr Veale claimed that he would not have requested the recovery of data from the phone if he had been seeking to destroy evidence, and that it would have been nonsensical to destroy his phone at a time when he was most in need of it.
In March 2018, Mr Veale was appointed chief constable of Cleveland Police and the IOPC has agreed with the area’s police and crime commissioner that he will be subject to ‘management action’ and an ongoing programme of professional development over the misconduct finding.
IOPC director Catrin Evans said: “The evidence gathered points to Chief Constable Veale damaging his mobile phone entirely by accident. He then arranged for all data from the damaged phone to be retrieved, and we found no evidence to suggest he was motivated to conceal information. Mr Veale volunteered to our investigators that he was embarrassed by his behaviour over a momentary loss of self-control on the golf course, at a time of personal and professional stress.
“However, chief constables are expected to promote ethical values, lead by personal example and act as ambassadors for the standards of professional behaviour. That Mr Veale chose to give a different account to the truth, both verbally and in writing on several occasions and for some time, in our view amounted to a case to answer for misconduct relating to honesty and integrity.”
Wiltshire Police has come under intense political and media pressure over the investigation into Sir Edward.
Operation Conifer concluded in August 2017 saying a proportionate investigation was undertaken in regard to each of the 42 disclosures that were alleged against the former premier.
In the case of seven individual disclosures, the final report said if Sir Edward had been alive today, he would have been interviewed under caution to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.