The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Police Barry Coppinger has resigned from his role with immediate effect after being accused of unlawful activity.

Mr Coppinger has been been in charge of the force since being elected in 2012.

Cleveland Police was forced into special measures following a negative report released last year which branded Cleveland Police inadequate in all areas.

The former Middlesbrough Labour councillor said he would not stand for re-election to the £70,000-a-year job in May this year.

But as elections were delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic he has remained in post. Until he walked away from the role today.

Mr Coppinger has been immediately referred to the police watchdog by the Chief Constable Richard Lewis after he investigated unlawful and/or improper behaviour.

A statement from Cleveland Police confirmed: “On Thursday 3 September 2020 Chief Constable Richard Lewis wrote to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland. 

“The letters relate to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland and are concerns of alleged unlawful and/or improper behaviour contrary to the Data Protection Act 2018 and/or the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

The IOPC has been contacted for comment.

In a letter to Mr Lewis, Mr Coppinger said he had “felt under siege” since the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report which found severe failings at the force.

“I have been working and making decisions while experiencing considerable, cumulative stress. It has reached the stage where this is now impacting upon my health,” wrote Mr Coppinger.

The former PCC said he was proud his office had won an annual award for openness and transparency for five years in a row.

But he went on to explain how he had approved WhatsApp to be used by staff on personal mobile phones, and used personally it himself.

In his letter, he said: “I have cleared messages on a regular basis, not with any intention to conceal anything but simply due to storage capacity limits.

“The recent focus on this area has led me to consider whether that was the right approach and it is right and proper that the appropriate independent authorities now consider this.”