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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Cumbria police whistleblower still suspended from work

A police worker facing no criminal action over the Richard Rhodes leaked documents case is still suspended – nearly a year on from her arrest.

Irene Brown, 51, is continuing to face internal disciplinary procedures at the county force long after prosecutors said she would not be charged.

Her husband has spoken of the “severe impact” the case has had on their lives.

It is the latest twist in nearly a year of controversy which saw Mr Rhodes, Cumbria’s crime commissioner, come under fire.

An inquiry was launched when details emerged at the start of April last year about trips in a chauffeur-driven car by Mr Rhodes.

Mrs Brown and her husband Stephen were among four people questioned as part of the probe launched into the leaking of information that showed nearly £700 of public cash was spent on trips to two evening engagements.

All the others quizzed were also told they face no further action. Two of them were also force employees and have since returned to work.

Mrs Brown, a Unison union official with the county force who lives near Penrith, was arrested on suspicion of data protection offences and misconduct in a public office.

But in October the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that she would have been in a position to establish “on the balance of probabilities” that any leak was in the public interest.

Police said she would “face no criminal action”.

Cumbria police have now confirmed her suspension from work remains in place.

A force spokesman said: “A 51-year-old woman continues to be suspended from duty while the constabulary continues to follow the disciplinary procedure.”

Mrs Brown was unavailable for comment.

But her husband Stephen said: “It’s affected us both quite drastically.

“The whole course of events over the year has had a severe impact on our lives.”

Mr Rhodes’ office said the chief constable, Bernard Lawson, had the responsibility over day-to-day management and decisions of police staff.

Mrs Brown has previously said that five police officers searched her home, seizing thousands of pounds worth of electrical goods.

She also told of her arrest – how she was locked in a cell and had DNA swabs taken from her before being questioned for five hours. She said the public had “a right to know about those expenses”.

The case caused uproar when it first came to light. Mr Rhodes has since repaid the cost of the trips, saying he would never have agreed to them had he known what the bill would be.

Mr Lawson said at the time it was the force’s duty to investigate the allegations about the leak.

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