Northamptonshire Police deputy chief under investigation for gross misconduct over spying scandal

The second in command at Northamptonshire Police is under investigation as part of an inquiry into another force's the use of anti-terror legislation to unlawfully spy on people.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 12:11 pm
Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless. Photo: Northamptonshire Police
Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless has been served a notice of gross misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) this month, it has been confirmed.

The notice is one of several issued by the police watchdog as part of its probe into allegations of discrimination and the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) by Cleveland Police.

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley said: "This is in relation to a complex inquiry dating back to his time at Cleveland Police.

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“The officer was completely transparent regarding this matter prior to his application to join Northamptonshire Police and he remains in post.

“This remains a live IOPC investigation and therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

An investigatory powers tribunal in 2017 ruled Cleveland Police used RIPA to unlawfully monitor the phones of two of its former officers and two Northern Echo newspaper journalists.

DCC Nickless was deputy chief constable at Cleveland Police at the time of the scandal and oversaw a review of regulatory powers before a complete overhaul of its professional standards department.

In February last year, an investigation to further look into the issue was launched by the name of Operation Forbes. It was managed by the IOPC and carried out by West Midlands Police.

DCC Nickless moved to Northamptonshire Police in December, following a secondment to the College of Policing.

In May, notices of gross misconduct were served to seven Cleveland Police officers, five of whom have retired, and one member of staff.

DCC Nickless' notice was one of a further two issued by the IOPC this month - the other has also retired.

The serving of a notice is not a finding of guilt but to inform the recipient that they are under investigation and the level of severity.

IOPC regional director Miranda Biddle said the 'complex' operation was taking time to complete due to a 'considerable' amount of evidence, but the notices followed 'detailed' assessments.

"The decision to serve notices of such severity is not taken lightly and must meet a specific threshold," she said in May.

"We have very carefully considered the evidence available to us, at this time, and made the decision to investigate the actions of the identified police officers and member of staff.

“I would like to thank all those involved in Operation Forbes for their work so far.”

A spokesperson for Cleveland Police said: “We note the IOPC’s update and continue to recognise the importance to communities, complainants and our staff of reaching a timely conclusion.

We have a commitment to learning and improving and we will continue to assist the IOPC as it is important that these investigations are resolved.”