INVESTIGATIONS into the conduct of Devon and Cornwall’s Chief Constable have ground to a halt – nine months after he was suspended on full pay from his £170,000 a year job.

The two counties’ Police Commissioner has spoken of her frustration at the pace of the inquiry, with taxpayers footing the bill for the salaries of two chief constables during those nine months.

Last summer it was revealed that a criminal investigation had been launched into sexual assault allegations against chief constable Will Kerr, who is a former assistant chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Mr Kerr strenuously denies the allegations and says he will co-operate with any investigation.

During his suspension, the Devon and Cornwall force has been run by an acting chief constable.

The inquiry into Mr Kerr is being carried out by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (PONI), and the exact nature of the allegations hasn’t been revealed.

Subsequently, on July 26 last year, Mr Kerr was suspended by Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez over misconduct allegations, which are being dealt with by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). No details of those allegations have been released either.

An expert in organised crime and terrorism, Mr Kerr has been a police officer for more than 30 years and recently became a member of an international policing group dealing in complex global politics as well as overseeing his westcountry “beat”.

He was awarded the OBE in 2015 while serving in Northern Ireland, and has also received the King’s Policing Medal.

A spokesman for Ms Hernandez’ office said the situation remained unchanged, and the criminal investigation is still in the hands of the PONI.

The spokesman said: “Mr Kerr remains suspended on full pay at this time pending the completion of relevant investigations.

“The allegations against Mr Kerr are subject to investigations by the PONI and the IOPC. We are not the investigating body for the allegations against Mr Kerr and therefore cannot comment on the current status of these investigations.”

A spokesman for the PONI has confirmed that the criminal investigation is still in progress.

And the IOPC said in a statement: “Our independent investigation into misconduct allegations against the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has been temporarily suspended pending the criminal investigation being carried out by the PONI.

“While we have made good progress, we decided to suspend the investigation as the stage was being reached where our inquiries risked causing prejudice to the ongoing criminal investigation which has to take precedence.

“We took the decision after liaison with PONI and the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. We are maintaining close links with PONI to gather all relevant information to enable us to progress inquiries as soon as we can when we are able to resume. We have advised relevant parties of our decision.”

Guy Henderson