An external inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s response to allegations of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets seems more likely today after yesterday’s GLA Police Committee meeting that saw both the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) fail to explain their actions.
The issue is one that is fundamental to British democracy. Did the Metropolitan Police make a political decision not to prosecute Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets First councillors because it was scared of becoming involved in the political arena?
Simply put instead of applying the law fairly to everyone did the Metropolitan Police give Lutfur Rahman a get out of jail free card simply because of his ethnicity and religion?
The problem of political correctness leading to allegations of electoral crime being ignored was direcly addressed in the ‘Securing the Ballot’ report of Sir Eric Pickles.
Residents and politicians in the borough have been frustrated by the seeming reluctance of the Met to properly investigate numerous allegations of bribery and perjury raised in the electoral petition judgment that found Lutfur Rahman and Alibor Choudhury guilty of corruption and banned from office for five years.
Mr Rahman is now attempting to make a political comeback prior to the 2018 elections under the banner of a new party, ‘Tower Hamlets Together’.
Thankfully the GLA Police and Crime Committee meeting was a textbook example of politicians holding public bodies to account for their failures and asking hard questioners on behalf of the Londoners they represent.
You can also see a selection of some of the live tweets generated during the meeting here.
Police do not seem to have fully investigated
“Big questions remain about why the police do not seem to have fully investigated the evidence uncovered as part of the election petition which removed Lutfur Rahman from power,” said John Biggs, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets in a statement to LW this afternoon.
“Given the scale of evidence leveled against Rahman, and the fact a high court judge found him guilty of corruption and threw him out of office, many people are puzzled that Rahman and his colleagues have not faced criminal charges.”
Biggs: HMIC should review Met’s handling of case
“I believe HMIC should now be asked to review the Met’s handling of this case and assess what more should have been done to investigate allegations against those who tried to subvert democracy and steal the 2014 election and what can be learnt from this episode.
With the former Mayor back on maneuvers it’s important that the public have confidence the authorities have done all they can to prosecute those who tried to corrupt our elections.”
During the GLA session Mayor Biggs made a deliberate reference to the corruptly elected Tower Hamlets First councilors who are still in post.
The role of HMIC, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is to independently assess the performance of UK police forces. Sir Thomas Windsor is the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary and is the first holder of that office to come from a non-policing background.
Which is very good.
Lots of excuses, no reasons
To date the Met have not provided a satisfactory reason for their failure to act over Rahman’s corruption and it failed to do so again today.
Giles Broadbent of The Wharf accurately predicted the Met’s approach: “They’ll shimmy past the only question that matters – how come, when there was so much criminality, proved to a criminal standard in a court of law, did not a single Rahman acolyte, place man or stooge face charges?”
Time and again in this morning’s committee meeting Commander Cundy of the Metropolitan Police was only capable of providing excuses for the lack of investigative zeal by his team.
It seems that although the 27 A4 ring binders of evidence from the electoral petition were available to the MPS in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions the Met did not fully examine them.
GLA members also commented that there seemed to be inconsistencies in the records kept by the MPS and CPS of the meetings between the two bodies over the case.
It would seem from what emerged today that instead of the MPS sending a comprehensive case full to the CPS to be reviewed independently that there was only a conversation or series of conversations between the MPS and the CPS.
The conclusion of these conversations seems to have been that the MPS had made a de facto decision not to bring a criminal prosecution. The term ‘de facto’ in this context means a decision that has the substance and consequence of a formal decision and stands simply because someone somewhere decided that was what would be done.
We may not have got this 100% correct, but then trying to get this whole story accurate is extremely difficult indeed.
Failure to prosecute Youth Service personnel
During today’s evidence the issue of Tower Hamlets Youth Services was briefly mentioned.
The just plain weird story of how no criminal charges have been brought against members of Rahman’s Youth Services is uncannily similar to the failure to prosecute anyone as a result of the electoral petition evidence.
In fact it is identical.
So it seems highly likely that both Youth Service personnel and Rahman escaping criminal prosecution was as a result of one and the same thing.
The problem being is that at the moment no-one knows what this thing is. But we will find out. The simplest reason is be that the Met was scared of bringing criminal charges against Rahman simply because is Bangladeshi and the police did not want to enter a political environment.
Political correctness to blame?
“Securing the ballot”, the review by Sir Eric Pickles’ into electoral fraud across the UK, touched on this where (para 78) it stated that:
“There were concerns that influence and intimidation within households may not be reported, and that state institutions had turned a blind eye to such behaviour because of ‘politically correct’ over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.”
Is that the reason? We don’t know.
LW hopes that an independent inquiry will be undertaken by HMIC or an appropriate body completely independent of the Met Police. Our view is that to discover why Rahman was not prosecuted the reason why Youth Services personnel were not prosecuted needs to be examined at the same time.
No-one is buying the line from somewhere in the depths of the town hall that ‘incorrect packaging’ was the reason for non-prosecution regarding Youth Services. The Wapping Mole is still digging away at that one.
Same stink, different direction
During the years Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First ran Tower Hamlets the stench of corruption was blatant. The electoral petition exposed the source of the smell. The air cleared at the same time Rahman left the political stage.
Now the smell has returned but from a different direction. The smell is coming from somewhere inside the Metropolitan Police. Not the smell of corruption necessarily but the smell of an institutional failure to uphold the law.
On 23rd April 2015 we published this summary of the electoral petition judgement by Justice Mawrey. Here is the final paragraph of that judgement:
“686 Events of recent months in contexts very different from electoral malpractice have starkly demonstrated what happens when those in authority are afraid to confront wrongdoing for fear of allegations of racism and Islamophobia.
Even in the multicultural society which is 21st century Britain, the law must be applied fairly and equally to everyone. Otherwise we are lost.”
There remain 16 Tower Hamlets councillors who were elected under the banner of a corrupt party, Tower Hamlets First.
- Two of these councillors have announced they are running for Mayor in 2018 (Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed) and one has announced his intention to stand for Parliament in 2020 (Oliur Rahman)
- Two further THF councillors were removed from the Council since the petition
- Alibor Choudhury was Lutfur Rahman’s election agent and was banned by the election petition and Shaheed Ali was last year convicted of housing fraud