Former council leader will NOT face criminal charges over alleged WhatsApp data breach

Former council leader Barrie Grunewald
Former council leader Barrie Grunewald
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No criminal charges will be brought against former St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald following an investigation into an alleged WhatsApp data breach.

Coun Grunewald stepped down as leader last month after Merseyside Police confirmed it was investigating an allegation of a possible data breach reported involving St Helens councillors.

The Rainhill councillor was subsequently suspended from the Labour Party.

However, the Local Democracy Reporter Service can confirm that this has now been lifted.

The allegations related to how screenshots from group WhatsApp conversations involving several St Helens Labour councillors were obtained from a mobile phone and then distributed during the run-up to the local elections.

Sources have confirmed that following an initial investigation, Supt Louise Harrison, area commander for St Helens, has informed Cllr Grunewald that no criminal charges will be brought against him.

Coun Grunewald’s suspension has subsequently been lifted by the Labour Party, allowing him to return to his duties as a councillor for Rainhill.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Barrie Grunewald’s suspension from the Labour Party has been lifted.”

Coun Grunewald has maintained throughout the investigation that he had done no wrong, claiming that “spurious allegations” had been levelled against him from fellow Labour councillors.

He said he felt people had a right to know what others said about them and welcomed the news that no charges will be brought against him.

“I knew I had done no wrong,” he said. “I felt pressure and duty bound to release the vile comments made by others.”

The former council leader said he has been well supported during his suspension.

“I’ve been moved by the swathes of unstinting support,” he said. “I hope this draws a line under it.”

Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service