Last week’s questioning of the Metropolitan Police by the GLA Police and Crime Committee as to exactly why and how Lutfur Rahman dodged criminal charges has shed some light on what really happened.
Only a full external inquiry will provide residents of Tower Hamlets with the truth.
The case of Rahman not being prosecuted – or even investigated – cannot be considered in isolation. Over the last 18 months details of the various activities of Rahman’s Youth Services team have emerged.
As with Rahman himself there would seem to be clear evidence of criminal behaviour by Youth Services but there have been no prosecutions.
Why? Because of a claim by a person or persons unknown with the Council that the evidence bundles submitted to the Metropolitan Police were “incorrectly packaged”.
Key to discovering who made this claim are the contents of an internal Tower Hamlets Council report which is considered so sensitive that it can only be read by our elected councillors in the presence of council officers.
Only a management summary has been released to the Council’s Audit Committee. LW understands that only the full report of the review into the behaviour of Youth Services under Rahman and Tower Hamlets First will reveal the true extent of possible criminal activity and explain why this evidence was never submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Metropolitan Police (sounds familiar doesn’t it?).
At the beginning of December 2016 LW submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the full report. Knowing that the chances of this FOI being met were slim we made a point of listing the reasons why the information needs of the general public should outweigh keeping the report secret. In FOI Land this known as a Public Interest Test (PIT).
(Oddly enough we cannot find our FOI on the Tower Hamlets Disclosure Log. OK, the webpage is a digital car crash, but we can usually find our FOIs. Have a look yourself and if you find FOI ‘Review of Youth Services audit report’ please let us know. You can read our copy here.)
Despite this our request was refused on the basis of what is known as a Section 22 exemption. You can see the refusal document here (PDF) and below is the main text.
“I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, but in this case we will not be providing this entire request it to you as it is exempt from disclosure. The exemption applied is section 22 – Information intended for future publication .
The information you have requested is due to be published by the Tower Hamlets Council in the near future.
In line with the terms of this exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, we have also considered whether it would be in the public interest for us to provide you with the information ahead of publication, despite the exemption being applicable.
In this case, we have concluded that the public interest favours withholding the information.
It is determined that it is not in the public interest to publish incomplete data and data which has not yet been through formal ratification processes.”
Love Wapping does not believe one word of this.
So today we have submitted a formal request for a review of this decision. You can see this document here.
Here are the key parts of our conclusion:
9. In my initial FOI request I stated the reasons why, under the Public Interest Test (PIT) test for disclosure, this report should be published. I believe that those PIT reasons still stand and are bolstered by recent developments in relation to the Metropolitan Police Service conduct after the conviction of Lutfur Rahman for electoral fraud and corruption (GLA Police & Crime Committee Meeting 9th February 2017
10. Anyone attending the GLA Police & Crime Committee meeting and having knowledge of the issues surrounding Lutfur Rahman’s Youth Services would make the reasonable assumption that there is the strong possibility of a connection between the two:
(a) The Metropolitan Police Service failed to submit case files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider bringing criminal charges against Lutfur Rahman and others and
(b) The Metropolitan Police Service failing to submit case files relating to Tower Hamlets Youth Services personnel to the CPS based on the claim by an unknown council officer or officers that the evidence was ‘incorrectly packaged’. (See Youth Services: No prosecutions due to incorrect ‘packaging’ of evidence: Love Wapping http://bit.ly/2hNKqc9 for full details.
11. I therefore once again argue that the reasons listed below are grounds for the Youth Services audit report as initially requested to be published to ensure that:
- There is informed public debate about significant decisions
- The public can participate effectively in decisions affecting them
- There is adequate scrutiny of the decision-making process
- That the authorities do their job properly (In this case the Metropolitan Police Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and Tower Hamlets Council)
- The public is not deceived about the way public authorities, or bodies which they regulate, operate
- Any misconduct by any of the above-mentioned authorities is exposed
What are the chances of the decision being reversed? No idea.
If residents of Tower Hamlets are denied access to this report then we will appeal. If that appeal fails we will appeal again.
Love Wapping does not give up. It is not in our nature.
We also intend to ensure that the issue of no prosecution of Rahman’s Youth Services personnel is within the formal remit of any external inquiry into the Metropolitan Police.