Local news for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets

Youth Services: No prosecutions due to incorrect ‘packaging’ of evidence.

LW can exclusively reveal that there will be no criminal prosecutions of any Youth Services personnel as persons unknown claim that evidence submitted by the Council to the police was rejected as it was ‘incorrectly packaged’.

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Incorrectly packaged?

Both the Metropolitan Police Service and Tower Hamlets Council itself have rejected this ‘incorrect packaging’ claim.

LW has spent many months trying to establish the truth of this issue with the help of numerous people from across the political spectrum who are representative of every part of our community.

The authorities have failed Tower Hamlets so, as with the electoral petition, it is down to citizens to seek the truth. Nothing changes.

It now seems that persons unknown are intent on preventing the truth from being revealed. This is the story so far.

Lutfur Rahman’s Youth Services

There have been between 75 to 150 individual investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by Youth Services anonymous-threatening-man-featuredduring the tenure of Lutfur Rahman.

Youth Services were brought in-house by Rahman and the Tower Hamlets First administration soon after he came to power in 2010 despite the existing service being well run and efficient.

The investigations into Rahman’s Youth Services have been undertaken by Tower Hamlets Council since Rahman was found guilty of electoral corruption and dismissed from office.

On Wednesday 18 May 2016 Cllr. Rachael Saunders stated in council that around 75 investigations were underway into various activities of Youth Services members under Lutfur Rahman including “Fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of procurement and recruitment processes, breach of the council’s financial regulations, breaches of Health & Safety and Data Protection legislation.”

Since then numerous pieces of information have emerged concerning how some members of Rahman’s Youth Services were allowed to behave including:

  • Extravagant spending using Council payments cards of around £400,000
  • Staff allegedly claiming overtime that was not worked
  • Youth Clubs and Projects that either never existed or no-one ever attended
  • An eye-witness statement of Youth Services vehicles being used for electoral fraud
  • Youth Services staff also being employed to verify the Register of Electors

(See list of previous Youth Services posts at bottom of page for full details.)

LW also understands that Youth Services staff may have been in attendance at both Polling Stations and Electoral Counts.

Love Wapping has been aware of  wrongdoing in Tower Hamlets Youth Services since the summer of 2015 but concrete evidence has been hard to come by. After the publication by the Council’s Internal Audit team of a general overview of their findings LW undertook more focussed enquiries.

£2,000,000 misspent?

In 2015 we were informed that in the region of £400,000 had been misspent by Youth Services personnel using payment cards issued to them by the Council for office use.

It now seems that this figure may be nearer £2,000,000. That sort of money would pay for a lot of council services. It would certainly keep all our Children’s Centres open.

Incorrect evidence ’packaging’ – excuse, reason or lie?

The results of our investigations into the extent of Lutfur Rahman’s corrupt practise has often surprised us. But when we found out why there had not been – and would not be – any criminal prosecutions of any members of Youth Services we were astounded.

The Council’s internal investigations team, in conjunction with Mazars, a large accountancy firm based in St Katharine’s Way acting as their external investigators, undertook numerous investigations into Youth Services activities. The precise number of investigations is not known but is presumed to be between 75 and 150.

At the completion of these investigations the evidence gathered, including witness statements, was then sent to the relevant department of the Metropolitan Police Service, in this case the Fraud Squad, which is part of Operation Falcon within the Met’s Organised Crime Command.

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Alice in Wonderland

The normal process is that a local authority submits evidence to the relevant police force who review the evidence and then, if all is in order, submit it to the Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS). It is the CPS who decides if a prosecution is in the public interest.

In the case of Youth Services none of the cases were submitted to the CPS by the Metropolitan Police.

This is the point where everything becomes very odd.

Incorrectly packaged

Our elected representatives (Councillors) and the Council executive (the bit that does stuff aka council officers) were told that all the Youth Service evidence had been rejected by the Met Police as the evidence was incorrectly ‘packaged’.

As it was incorrectly packaged all the evidence for all the cases was not only returned to the Council but never submitted to the CPS for consideration as to prosecution.

Just to add to the bad news the unidentified Council officers or officer(s) were also told that none of the Youth Service cases would result in criminal prosecution either now or in the future.

Complete and utter bollocks

police-helmetBy a happy coincidence LW staff have extensive personal experience of gathering, preparing documenting and ‘packaging’ evidence of all types for use in serious criminal prosecutions from fingerprints at burglaries to terrorist explosive devices.

So we immediately knew that this packaging story was, to use a legal term, complete and utter bollocks.

Strict protocols govern the collection and handling of forensic evidence like fingerprints, weapons and DNA which if not adhered to the evidence can render the evidence useless. Our understanding is the only evidence submitted by the Council to the MPS was documentary – just bits of paper which in themselves have no evidential value.

It is the words written on the paper by investigators, witnesses and suspects that are of value. Yes the statements need to be written and witnessed in the right way but at the end of the day most evidence is just bundles of paper. Maybe crates of bundles of paper for a large fraud. But still just paper.

We asked the CPS if they were aware of any specific packaging requirements when a local authority submitted evidence to the police. The CPS was baffled and suggested we ask the police.

So we asked we did.

Response from Metropolitan Police

Question 1 to MPS

Is there a formal process or set of presentation requirements (“packaging”) for evidence of this type [Youth Service investigations] when it is submitted by a Local Authority to the MPS?

Answer 1 from MPS

“There is no formal process or set of presentation requirements for evidence submitted by a local Authority to the MPS. During the progress of the investigation a Local Authority would be expected to provide information, intelligence and evidence and this would be then put into the correct format by the investigating officer, should the need arise to refer it to the CPS.”

Question 2 to MPS

Please confirm the date(s) of receipt of the evidence submitted by Tower Hamlets Council regarding allegations against Youth Services personnel to the MPS.

Answer 2 from MPS

“The investigation commenced in June 2014 and concluded in June 2016, there was a close dialogue and interaction between the Local Authority and the investigating officer for the provision of any evidence required/available.”

The MPS also provided us with this information.

“In June 2014 the London Borough of Tower Hamlets referred two allegations of fraud to the MPS in relation to nine youth organisations on the borough. The allegations centred around the provision of approximately £300,000 of funding during the financial year 2013/4. These matters were allocated for investigation to the Fraud Squad, which is part of Operation Falcon within the Met’s Organised Crime Command. A number of inquiries were carried out and the matter has now concluded. We have communicated our rationale for the decision reached with London Borough of Tower Hamlets.”

That’s all pretty clear then. No specific requirements for packaging by MPS.

We also asked the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly known as the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO) if they could tell us anything about specific packaging requirements. They could not but suggested we contact the Home Office.

foi-featuredWe also asked Tower Hamlets Council questions pretty much identical questions to those we asked the Met although we did so via a Freedom of Information request just to be on the safe side.

You can find FOI 6081379 MPS response to Tower Hamlets Council YS evidence here [PDF]  with the key bits below.

FOI: 6081379 MPS response to Tower Hamlets Council YS evidence

The request is regarding the submission by Tower Hamlets Council of evidence relating to recent investigations into Youth Services to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the MPS response to the submission.

Q1. Details issued to Local Authorities for the submission of evidence to police forces following internal inquiries into allegations against council staff of a criminal nature.

A1: The information requested is not held by the Local Authority. There are no written details provided to the Local Authority by police forces. [LW emphasis]

Q2. Details issued to Local Authorities specifying the way in which such submissions should be presented or packaged.

A2: Please see response to question 1.

Q3. Please confirm the date(s) of the submission of any evidence submitted by Tower Hamlets Council regarding allegations against Youth Services personnel to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) as a result of internal enquiries by the Council.

A3: Submissions were made to the police between December 2014 and June 2016

Q4. Name of the MPS unit that evidence was submitted to

A4: Fraud Squad – Operation Falcon part of the Organised Crime Command (SCO7)

Q5. Details of any discussions between the relevant MPS unit and the Council after submission as to whether the evidence was submitted to the MPS in a suitable format for their analysis and forwarding to the CPS.

A5: The information requested is not held by the Local Authority. There were no discussions on suitable formats as no guidance exists on the packaging and presentation of evidence from the Local Authority to the police. [LW emphasis]

Q6. Details of any problems with the evidence raised by the MPS.

A6: Please see response for question 5

Q7. Details of any discussions between the MPS and Tower Hamlets Council to resolve any problems with the submission of this evidence and so allow the evidence to be forwarded to the CPS

A7: Please see response for question 5

Q8. The date on which MPS informed the Council that they did not intend to pursue the evidence any further.

A8: Wednesday 22nd June 2016

Q9. The formally stated reasons given by the MPS for not progressing with criminal investigations, who it was communicated by and to whom.

A9: Insufficient evidence to proceed. [LW emphasis]

Q10. References to relevant legislation / documentation / guidelines issued by central or local government relating to the submission of evidence to police forces.

A10: Please see response for question 1

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In summary

  1. Unidentified Tower Hamlets Council officer or officer(s) have stated to other Council officers and our elected representatives that incorrect ‘packaging’ was the reason for no criminal prosecutions into Youth Service activities.
  2. Crown Prosecution Service unaware of any specific packaging requirements for evidence submission of this type to MPS.
  3. MPS state that there is no formal process or set of presentation requirements for evidence submitted by a local Authority to the MPS.
  4. Tower Hamlets Council states that there are no written details provided to them by police forces for submission of evidence and that there were no discussions on suitable formats for presentation of evidence between the Council and MPS.

In addition to our FOI we also asked the Council for a further statement which, after a weeks delay, they provided:

“We have fully co-operated with the police in providing information relating to their investigation. The police do not provide written guidance to organisations on how to package information. Our internal investigations are ongoing.”

“What are the authorities afraid of?”

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP

LW informed Jim Fitzpatrick, our local MP for Limehouse Poplar of the incorrect packaging situation and his response was blunt.

“This looks like yet another breath-taking example of the lack of prosecutorial action following evidence of fraud in Tower Hamlets. What are the authorities afraid of here?” said Jim.

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Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrats

“Someone in this process has royally messed up. The statements from the Council and the MPS simply don’t add up,” said Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse.

“We’ve now had two years of wasted time; wasted money and still no answers and no-one held to account for what happened. We deserve much better as a borough.”

LW has submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Council for details of all meetings between Council officers and the MPS relating to the submission of evidence relating to Youth Services investigations and a copy of the full Internal Audit report into the Youth Service.

Only a summary of this report was presented to the Audit Committee and so available for residents to examine.

LW believes there are overwhelming public interest reasons for this report and any other relevant documents to be published and will pursue this matter on this basis.

When we get it – and get it we will – then we will let you know if it sheds anymore light on how the Youth Services evidence was incorrectly packaged.

LW Comment

The incorrect ‘packaging’ story above is the most important story that LW has published since October 2014 when we first revealed that council grants were distributed by Lutfur Rahman and cronies on the basis of political patronage, not need.

The reason that this ‘packaging’ issue is so important is that it would seem that someone somewhere is not telling us all the real reason why there have been no criminal prosecutions of Youth Service personnel.

Our Council is currently being forced to implement savage cuts to essential services that will affect everyone in the East End of London.

It only seems fair that those who have misused millions of pounds of Council money are identified. With the support of residents across the borough our work will continue until such time as these people are known.

The general public has a basic right to know the full extent of all the activities of Lutfur Rahman’s Youth Services operations. And we all need to know why this happened. What was the purpose? And where did that money go?

Previous posts about Youth Services


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