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Mail refuses to be bullied by police

The Hartlepool Mail has come in for harsh criticism from the police after its exclusive about Cleveland Chief Constable Barry Shaw and his role in the ‘Robocop’ Ray Mallon affair.

Cleveland Police Authority has threatened to report the Mail to the Press Complaints Commission if it repeats any of the allegations.

The chief constable has been under investigation in an internal police inquiry over allegations he was involved in a smear campaign against Mr Mallon, who, as a detective superintendent, championed a zero-tolerance policy on crime.

In a letter to Mail editor Harry Blackwood, the authority’s lead officer, Peter Riley, said the paper’s revelations were “unwise and of very questionable lawfulness and professionalism”.

He also claimed the stories could have influenced how members of the authority treated the allegations when they met to discuss them behind closed doors on Friday.

But Mail editor Harry Blackwood said: “We will not be bullied or intimidated by people who feel they can decide what the public is entitled to know about.

“We have a duty to keep our readers informed. These are public bodies spending public money and we are entitled to question their actions as well as report on them.”

And media law expert Walter Greenwood – co-author of Essential Law for Journalists – said a complaint to the PCC would not get far. He said: “This is very much part of a newspaper’s duty.”

He added: “It is absurd to say members of a body such as a police authority can be prejudiced. They are supposed to be independent.

“It is not, of course, a court so there is no question of contempt. It is not a body exercising judicial functions.”

The letter from the police authority came after the Mail told how Mr Shaw could face disciplinary action in the wake of a report which implicates him in the smear campaign.

  • Mr Mallon was “required to resign” from his post as Chief Superintendent after admitting 14 disciplinary charges arising out of Operation Lancet – a long-running, anti-corruption investigation into the Cleveland force.

    Weeks later, the former head of Hartlepool CID, who introduced zero tolerance policing to the streets of Britain, was elected Mayor of Middlesbrough.

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