Below are some of the key elements taken from the official transcripts of the GLA Police & Crime Committee meeting Thursday, 9 February 2017 convened to examine the actions (or lack of action) by the Metropolitan Police Service into tackling allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice in Tower Hamlets.
The two transcript documents are over 70 pages in length and it is not possible to give an accurate precis of the whole four hours of discussion here. You should refer to the transcripts for full context.
However from our experience of this case we consider the extracts on this page to be of great importance. These are from the second document (Part Two).
Key passages have been underlined by LW.
Andrew Dismore AM: OK. If we follow through the timetable, there is then a hearing before the Lord Justices on appeal from Mr Rahman. Then in July 2016 there is a meeting with Assistant Commissioner (AC) [Helen] King [MPS] attended by Mayor Biggs, the Chief Executive, Mr Golds, three Commissioners – presumably that includes you, Sir Ken [Knight CBE], DI Granville and Mr Vamos. What was that about?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): That was a meeting literally as you have articulated. In March of that year – looking at my timeline – following the advice that we had received as the police from the CPS, from a meeting we had with them on 18 February 2016, on 16 March 2016 the MPS put out its press statement.
That made it clear that – following a review of the judgment and the re-investigations – no individual was to be charged. That meeting in July  was with those individuals, as you have just described them, to endeavour to explain what the MPS had done as part of the investigations and the reasons the decision had been made.
Mayor John Biggs (Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor): I want to record that I think all of us came away from that meeting rather confused and frustrated that the record of actions, from the prosecution and those of the CPS, did not seem to coincide with each other. AC King was very clear that the MPS had passed all sorts of information and recommendations in conversation with the CPS. The CPS did not seem to have the same recollection of what had happened. It left us wondering what had actually happened with the case.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): Can I come in on that, please?
Andrew Dismore AM: Yes.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): There obviously is confusion over this and I think – well, I would say – it is a red herring but I think it is very easy to clear it up and it is really what Commander Cundy and I have been saying from the start. That the CPS and the MPS worked side by side in these investigations. Although from a legal perspective it is important to identify the decision-maker, in terms of then whether that decision can be challenged. We agreed with the MPS’s decision not to refer the files to us and it was informed by the advice that we had given them throughout.
If Assistant Commissioner King and I did not explain that satisfactorily at the meeting in July, then I hope Commander Cundy and I have done that today, and in subsequent correspondence I hope we have tried to make that absolutely clear.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): I think it is really important to clarify this point because on Budget day the press office of Scotland Yard issued a press release basically saying that, after full consultation with the CPS, a decision had been made that there was insufficient evidence that criminal offences had been committed. Jim Fitzpatrick [MP], Poplar & Limehouse, was told by the CPS – and I do not know who within the CPS, I should have found out – that they had never seen the file.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): Right. It is important to be precise about the terms we are referring to here. As Commander Cundy said I think at some point during the first session, when we talk about a full file being received from the police that is a term of art referring to a file of evidence that the police have decided discloses a realistic prospect of conviction and they are referring it to the CPS for a charging decision, so at that point the responsibility for the decision passes to us. We apply the code for Crown Prosecutors and we make that decision.
I do not know who said that. I am not quite sure where it is from. I am very happy to look at it.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): I shall certainly provide you with that information.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): Yes.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): “Term of art” that is an interesting phrase. You just used the phrase “term of art”. What does that mean?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): I am trying to define for you what we mean by a file in that context. It means very specifically a file of evidence, which the police have assessed discloses a reasonable prospect of conviction that they are then passing to us for us to make a charging decision. We did not receive a file in that sense because the police had already decided not to refer. That is not the same as saying we did not ever see any evidence. We did not have exchanges of correspondence. We did not discuss endlessly and frequently the evidence in this investigation.
Andrew Dismore AM: In the end, therefore, it was the police’s decision not to prosecute?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): Yes, correct.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): You acted ??
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): ?? on the police’s decision not to refer a file to the CPS for us to make a decision.
Andrew Dismore AM: De facto, as far as the public is concerned, that means the police made the decision that this was not going to go anywhere. Let us put it like that.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): Yes.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): Can I put this that you acted on the police’s assessment of the situation?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): No, we did not have to act because ??
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): Failed to act, rather.
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): No, we did not have to. It never got to that. That is the point. Ultimately, it was the police who made the decision that this is not going to go to the CPS for a prosecution. The decision about all of this was made by the police.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): That is a clear point that we have just gauged now. We do have a set of questions about burden of proof but, Tony, did you want to come in briefly?
Tony Arbour AM: Yes, precisely on that point. This is the first time we have heard about the continuous conversations between the police and the CPS. One of the catalysts for this meeting was when we had the Deputy [Commissioner] here we also had a letter from the Commissioners referring to the fact that the police had not referred the matter to the CPS. The Deputy said that he believed he understood that the matter had been referred by the police to the CPS. Subsequently, I think in Parliament [Sir] Eric Pickles asked the same question and there appeared to be a similar dispute. It is clear, is it not, that in this case the police and the CPS were one?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): As I have already said, we agreed with the decision that the police made and it was informed by the advice that we gave them. I have said that on previous occasions and I said that at the meeting in July.
Tony Arbour AM: Are you telling us that what happened was the police came along and said, “Do you agree that we do not have sufficient matters for you to take the matter any further?” Is that what happened?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): No.
Tony Arbour AM: Then how did you come to this agreement? Are you saying the police did not come to you with any kind of recommendation at all? They said, “Here are the papers, Mr Vamos. Do you agree with us that it should not go any further?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): No, we came to it in precisely the way that I have described on several occasions already this morning.
Tony Arbour AM: They asked for your advice and you gave them advice and in the end they decided not to send you a file for a decision?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): I think that is a fair summary but I would not want to speak for Commander Cundy.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): I think that is quite clear although, Commander Cundy, briefly – because we are moving on to burden – is that fair? Just your confirmation: is that a fair analysis? You were in discussion with Mr Vamos or whoever. The CPS were giving you advice and, on the basis of the advice and the discussions you had with the CPS, you – the MPS – decided not to refer a formal file to the CPS for a prosecution decision?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): In the majority of cases, yes.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): A question to Peter and to John. Can you tell us about your experiences of making a complaint to the MPS about electoral fraud?
Mayor John Biggs (Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor): OK. I am a man with several hats on, I suppose, and one of them is I am the properly elected Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets. I know that there is a lot of anxiety in Tower Hamlets. That people feel that there has not been a proper closure of this matter. An example of that would be what we perceive to be the confusion between the CPS and the MPS about who said what and who decided things should be progressed, the feeling that the electoral court judge was very unequivocal in his findings, and yet nobody seems to be held to account on a personal level through the criminal justice system. I suppose I am expressing – on behalf of a lot of my constituents – the frustration about that and a feeling that it was not taken assiduously and seriously. I am interested to hear today about how many people were questioned. I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about this. If you think, for example, of postal vote fraud, the Electoral Court judge found that in his view there had been such fraud. That does not mean that he could identify individuals, and people might be interested to know what efforts were made to try to identify individuals who might have carried out that activity.
We are all aware of people who might have been expected to be questioned about this, including people who felt they had evidence about it, very few of whom seem to have been asked to give statements.
Francis Hoar (Barrister, Field Court Chambers): This is relevant to this issue because it concerns evidence. A lot of what the MPS has said in the past about this issue has been relating to hearsay and a lot of evidence was given by hearsay, which was eligible.
Of course, there is a large body of hearsay evidence that has always been admissible in the criminal courts, even before the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, which includes business hearsay and that includes, for example, grants; grants that were given and the decisions that were made, meetings that were held and so on.
If you look in the judgment – which of course the MPS has studied assiduously, I am sure – between paragraphs 460 and 525, the Commissioner goes through in great detail evidence, most of which is evidence that is business hearsay, which would be admissible in a criminal court, about the grant process. He also analyses in detail the evidence given by witness Deborah Cohen, an officer in Tower Hamlets, who he believed and who gave evidence of two meetings. The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his agent, who was at that time in charge of the finances in Tower Hamlets, denied these meetings took place. He goes through the documentary evidence that she gave of those meetings, notes taken contemporaneously and notes taken on the next day in a meeting with her manager, and he said at paragraph 479:
“Having heard the evidence of Ms Cohen, Mr Rahman, Mr Assad and Mr Choudhury on these incidents, I have not the slightest doubt that Ms Cohen was telling the truth and that the three men were quite deliberately lying.”
That raises an additional issue of perjury of course, which is definitely something that was referred to the police. I know for a fact it was referred to [DI] Gail Granville. I also know that Ms Cohen was spoken to by the police. No proceedings have been instituted on that.
I note also that the Commander has said in all those new offences that were brought to the attention of the MPS through this judgment, has not mentioned the offence of bribery. Of course, Lutfur Rahman was found guilty of the electoral offence of bribery and, in the judgment, the Commissioner also noted that the 2010 Act Offence of Bribery would also have been met by the evidence that he assessed and found proven to the criminal standard. It is not for me to question the Commander but it might be that Members of the Assembly might want to ask questions about that.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): There is a question through us to you [MPS] from Francis [Hoar] and also the points raised by Councillor Peter Gold. Can I also put it to you about what you said in your letter to MOPAC that no evidence had been found of an orchestrated system of political malpractice, either by geographical location, for example, Tower Hamlets, by any specific political party, do you still stand by that statement? Do you still stand by the other point you make in the letter?
“In relation to electoral fraud and malpractice allegations, Tower Hamlets, the MPS has been both robust and proactive.”
Everything we have heard so far suggests the contrary.
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): In relation to the first statement, and bear in mind the police role is in relation to criminal offences, so, yes, I stand by the statement from the criminal perspective. Yes, that is our role. That is not to say from another perspective there might be views around something that has been widespread, but we have to follow the criminal investigations and the evidence for criminal purposes. That is our function.
Mayor John Biggs (Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor): We are at risk of repeating the same point but, very simply, the Election Court judgment was passed and we understood that the whole of that judgment, which I assumed included all the subsidiary papers we passed to the Mayor, and I took some pity on him because there were thousands of pages of it, but I assume it would just be a question of looking at the seven findings against the previous Mayor and others. It would also be looking beneath the surface at the various other offences, which it was suggested had been carried out. I come away from this wondering whether that was ever really done because Mr Golds has illustrated that point.
Francis Hoar (Barrister, Field Court Chambers): As a matter of fact, it is important to note that there were 27 lever-arch files, all of which were in the hands of the DPP, and the purpose of the DPP being represented by counsel, which as Mr Vamos said they were was in order to assess that evidence, so the MPS had at its disposal from the outset 27 lever arch files, all of which were referred to, not directly but they were referred to in submissions and they were referred to by the Commissioner in his judgment. It is not right to say that the MPS needed to seek those. They did not.
Andrew Dismore AM: Mr Cundy, do the police have those files and has somebody read them?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): Those files, as Mr Hoar said, went to the DPP. We have not had any referrals from that hearing.
Andrew Dismore AM: You have not had those 27 files?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): They went to the DPP as I said.
Andrew Dismore AM: You have not had those 27 files?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): They went to the DPP, Mr Dismore, as I said.
Andrew Dismore AM: They have not come to you?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): No, they are with the DPP.
Andrew Dismore AM: Right. So, Mr Vamos CPS, why were those files not given to the police?
Nick Vamos (Head of Special Crime (Crown Prosecution Service): I would need to go and check what happened to those files.
Andrew Dismore AM: This is all Inspector Clouseau [A fictional character in The Pink Panther series], is it not?
Sir Ken Knight CBE QFSM (Tower Hamlets Commissioner): You will understand that as the lead Commissioner in the direction that has been put in place, this is not directly my responsibility but I have made strong observations publicly and have had good conversations with, of course, the Mayor and those interested and, indeed, the MPS.
If I could just say as a preface, therefore, to what I am going to say on this part, what I found was anything but that. The challenge I took in December 2014 was a shock even to me to find that there was an organisation that was supposed to be a local authority but actually was full of secrets and transparency and not trusted, not trusted internally.
Even elected members within the Council – would you believe – having to put in Freedom of Information Act requests within their Council for information about their Council.
A mayor who actually refused to stand up and speak at scrutiny because he said it was against his human rights to do so, so never did answer questions at his own scrutiny committee, and in that period having to take out further directions because we got no co-operation in those early days.
I am pleased to counter that by saying that since the new Mayor has been – not very new now, of course – properly elected we have been able to reduce some of those directions and I will come on to that.
There is some confusion, Chairman, and I would like to touch on that and how we became concerned. One was about the whistle-blowers telling us things that were going on and the conversation we had. This is purely a professional observation as a Commissioner that we found in place. First of all, you will know that the Mawrey hearing also had in its first instance allegations against the Returning Officer, which the petitioners dropped on the first day of the hearing and not revisited because they were not in Mawrey, so we felt there was evidence in there .
In discussion with [AC] Helen King we found that all of the evidence that was against the returning officer nevertheless was about corruption in the election. We were advised by the AC that no new interviews were undertaken with those people. Those interview statements were dropped that might have been worth looking at again, even though they may not have appeared in the Mawrey judgment.
The confusion that we have talked about – and I well remember the discussion with AC King, where that confusion occurred and I recall it occurring – happened this way, and the MPS will know this. The first press release by the MPS after deciding to take no action was that the CPS decision was to take no action. When we had that further discussion with AC King – as the CPS have quite rightly clarified, and clarified at that meeting after some confusion – the cases were never formally referred to the CPS and they did not need to. We still had a feel about the public interest in all of this, in terms of democracy and openness. Also the reverse, of course. It being prayed in aid because of lack of CPS action and its defence that it was an establishment that was getting rid of the former Mayor.
One of my roles is Lead Commissioner. My background, of course, is as a firefighter. There is something relevant about that, I guess. My role is also to have a liaison, not only with the elected Mayor and lead members, but obviously with key players, including Government officials, the Minister, and the two MPs. I was taken by the letter to one of those MPs from the DPP, in which she says:
“Electoral malpractice is not always captured under that particular legislation of the Representation of the People Act and may be best reflected as an offence of corruption, bribery and conspiracy, where no time limit applies for bringing charges to these offences.”
I might have added to that, in my innocence, misconduct in public office and perjury. However, I think the DPP makes a very good point. I come back to Mr Duvall’s questions which I think are absolutely right. The offences – for me as a very keen observer now being brought up to speed very quickly – are not about offences on the day of election. It strikes me that elections are not just stolen on the day. They can be stolen before by what happens.
Chairman, I am happy to come back another time and tell you what changed in elections from 2014 to the elections that happened in 2015. A considerable amount did change, including the close work of the Electoral Commission and the MPS with some really different procedures. However, I think my focus has been what happened before the election and around the election, not just on Election Day, when the election was democratically stolen from the proper democratic control. I hope that clarifies the Commissioner’s position.
Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM: I wanted to this pick up with Francis Hoar. You are listening to this. Thank you, Councillor Golds, for this fantastic letter. There is so much in here that, as an ordinary person, you think, “Well, justice needs to be done”. There is clearly evidence there. You have an address. You have whatever. Yet we have not seen these prosecutions. I wonder whether, as a barrister, you can explain to us how the burden of proof differs between that which is sufficient in an election court and that needed for a conviction in a criminal court, particularly when Judge Mawrey made it clear he used the criminal burden of proof for his findings?
Francis Hoar (Barrister, Field Court Chambers): Well identified. The answer to that is no, there is not a difference as, to be fair, the police have acknowledged. What the police say, of course, is that hearsay evidence cannot be admitted. Of course, the hearsay rules have become quite significantly more lax since the Criminal Justice Act 2003. There were always rules, as I said, in relation to bribery. It has always been the case that business hearsay, i.e., documentary evidence, has always been admissible in a criminal court. That is why I really wanted to identify that between paragraphs 460 and 512 of the judgment a lot of what has gone into there are Ofcom judgments and advertisements. All admissible.
There is admissible documentary evidence in relation to grants and admissible documentary evidence in relation to meetings that occurred. There are Councillors who were at the meetings who can affirm the minutes that took place there. There is, of course, the evidence of Deborah Cohen, evidence substantiated by contemporaneous notes. There is evidence of two meetings both of which were denied. Not just, “I don’t remember this happening” but Alibor Choudhary, Mr Asad and Mr Rahman saying they did not occur.
Apparently, the police reached the decision – which, again, you might be interested in – that that does not amount to a reasonable prospect of success in relation to perjury. I think is the answer we got from Commander Cundy just now.
That goes to two different types of offences. One is bribery. The Commissioner outlined in detail the evidence he took into account. Of course, bribery does not require evidence that somebody has actually been bribed, it is simply an offence of intent. Providing steps are taken by somebody in order to bribe is sufficient in the criminal law if the intent is there. In terms of what the criminal law is and what the election law is, of course the election offences that were established were all criminal offences. In addition to that there is the 2010 Bribery Act. The Commissioner went into detail as to why the 2010 Bribery Act would be met by the evidence he considered, in addition to the RPA offences.
It is a matter of public record that Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mr Justice Supperstone in the Divisional Court not only rejected the application for judicial review, but by rejecting the application for permission they found it was not arguable the Commissioner had made an error of law or had made findings of fact that were not substantiated by the evidence in relation to bribery. They specifically agreed, at paragraph 23 onwards of the judgment of the Divisional Court, with Commissioner Mawrey’s finding as to the legal test for bribery in this particular instance. All of that was, of course, available. That was only available from 26 January 2016, when we had the judgment in the Divisional Court. Commissioner Mawrey’s judgment was available since 23 April 2015. The extension was applied for well before the one year time limit was up. If it was not applied for in relation to bribery it could have been and, in any event, you have the 2010 Bribery Act offence.
Mayor John Biggs (Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor): I am trying to put my finger on where the frustration lies in this. I do understand the points that have been made but as far as a lot of people are concerned, including a lot of people in this chamber today, the Electoral Court judge was very clear that there were 19 people who, in his view, were unlawfully elected. There was the Mayor plus 18 Councillors. Of those the Mayor and one Councillor were disqualified because they were named on the petition. The other 17 were not named on the petition and nothing happened to them. Of those 17, one went to jail because he was found to be guilty of other criminal offences. There are 16 councillors in the Tower Hamlets Council chamber collecting their expenses and participating in decisions who have not really been held to account for anything. Some of them are fairly contrite and recognise that things were wrong. I guess there was an expectation that if the party they were elected under was an improper organisation, as the judge said, that it was not properly registered and did not do things properly, then something further should have happened.
I appreciate all the constraints but there are 27 lever-arch files or whatever. There is a lot of information about what people did or did not do. Although it is very time consuming there is a public interest in terms of understanding and learning from that, holding people to account and making sure we learn lessons about how a system, which is generally based on trust, may need to be better regulated in the event that other instances like this occur.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): That sums it up perfectly.
Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM: Very, very helpful.
Tony Arbour AM: I want to ask Sir Ken and Mayor Biggs what has been the result of there not being a prosecution and whether there has not been collusion in some way or another not to bring a prosecution? When I first raised this matter more than a year ago with the previous Mayor I suggested maybe a reason there had not been a prosecution possibly was the ‘Rotherham syndrome’ where a prosecution may have been misinterpreted or there may have been fear of bringing a prosecution because of community reaction. I want to ask Mayor Biggs and the Commissioner what do they think in Tower Hamlets about the fact there has been no closure, that there has not been a prosecution? Do residents perhaps think that some people have got away with things simply because the police and CPS have decided not to take the matter further?
I have to say, if I may, referring back to the point that I made earlier, that this is the first we have ever heard that there were these extensive conversations between the CPS and the police as to whether or not a prosecution should be brought. We always thought that evidence was presented to the CPS and the CPS decided whether or not there was a case to go on. From what we have heard today it looks as though both of you have decided that there was not anything to go on. That really gives rise to my question, what do the residents of Tower Hamlets think about this?
Mayor John Biggs (Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor): There is no such thing as “the residents of Tower Hamlets” with a single view, obviously. There are quite a lot of people who feel dissatisfied. People who are active citizens in the borough who feel that something went wrong and very few people have been held to account for it, as I have said already.
There is some frustration, and I share some of this, about the competence and willingness of the police to investigate matters. That is not because, in my view, they are politically correct or sensitive to cultural sensitivities. In my view it is because it was not adequately thoroughly prioritised and investigated. There is a question of whether there should be some review. I know I have had this conversation with you at the weekend, Mr Arbour, whether there should be some review of the way in which the MPS investigated this. I think this was first put in my mind by the Commissioner and I am sure that Sir Ken will speak in a minute about the possibility of referring this matter to the HMIC. I have discussed that with the Deputy Mayor for Policing [and Crime] as well. I know that she is minded that is not an appropriate action. I am not persuaded that it is not an appropriate action. There is merit in looking – this is of public interest – at the thoroughness with which this very sensitive matter was investigated.
There is another attribute of this which is that some of the people around the former Mayor have used the absence of prosecutions – and this does not mean there should be a prosecution without evidence – as evidence that nothing was actually wrong. There is a fairly steady rumour in bits of the town and its community that says, “Well, no one’s gone to jail, no one’s been prosecuted”, and therefore this was just some sort of political conspiracy with racist overtones. That strays so far away from the evidence that there is a public interest in emphasising that people were properly held to account to some degree for this. However, there is a lot of unfinished business there.
Sir Ken Knight CBE QFSM (Tower Hamlets Commissioner): Thank you, Mr Arbour. I entirely agree with that. It is of two halves. In some aspects not just the physical change of direction is required. Underpinning that is cultural change within the whole of Tower Hamlets and at officer level particularly. The culture has changed to trust and openness and one of transparency. Anything that can continue to encourage that journey would be tremendously helpful. Some still are in denial and some would see it slipping backwards to one that is of the secrecy and corruption that, frankly, some of which I found in my grants-making procedures and background.
There re very clear messages about what is right in local government more generally. There is a very keen public interest in doing so across the whole of London, so it is very clear about messaging.
The whistleblowing has been really important. Not only has Mayor Biggs now completely updated, refreshed and changed the whistleblowing policy, which I very much welcome, but actually has a team in at the moment. It is looking at specific areas, over a period, going through those issues where those outside still did not trust the organisation inside, even though we had appointed new statutory officers. That procedure is bearing fruit. Anything that damages that and the implication it is not a trustworthy organisation and the former Mayor was somehow wronged and therefore there was no police prosecution has not been helpful.
The point Mayor Biggs raised is fair. I am aware, as you no doubt are, Chair, that Police and Crime Commissioners can commission HMIC to look at specific areas in their police force and do so. They have done so in a number of other police forces. In the case of London the Deputy Mayor for Policing has the remit and power of the Police and Crime Commissioners. That is an avenue open to the Deputy Mayor for Policing if she so wished to take that view.
Len Duvall AM: It might not be helpful, but one of the things that we might want to ask and follow up, Chairman, one of the things we might want to follow up is these points, because I think they are quite material and in terms of the investigations that were carried out and I need – and I accept what you are saying – however I would like to see a bit more substantive information around that.
Then, finally, I just want to ask in terms of the background, and you can only answer for your section that is doing this work, however a number of issues, a number of concerns arising from the community is the relationship between the police on the ground as well as their relationship with some of the individuals that were involved in the electoral petition around that.
There have been subsequently a number of further police investigations I think around youth service fraud as well as grants. Was there a police investigation into grants or was there not?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): The grants allegation in youth services, yes.
Len Duvall AM: Do those investigations fall under your specialist, not electoral team, but your wider issue in the MPS, or was that dealt with locally?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): That was before I had taken over the post, however the investigation into the youth services reported through into AC King.
Len Duvall AM: Right, therefore some of your personnel under your command, albeit before you took over, would have been maybe involved in those issues.
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): The investigators from a different part of the MPS are not under my direct responsibility, but are specialist investigators from our Specialist Crime and Operations Business Group.
Francis Hoar (Barrister, Field Court Chambers): I think it might be helpful, Mr Duvall, the other major implications was the housing benefit fraud.
Len Duvall AM: OK. The reason why I am saying that, there are some wider issues, and I suppose the charge here, and I know the Chair will wrap up, however the MPS has a history of being over-sensitive sometimes on dealing with some issues and pulling their punches in internal matters at large, do you know what I mean, it is all there in the public if we want to Google it around those issues.
I would like for you to provide in some information about those checks and balances that take place that you have said today to this committee about how these processes around who you consult on these investigations and whether in these particular cases you consulted others who you would not normally consult because it is a sensitive, it is a political case that happens to be Tower Hamlets, it might be those issues around relationships and that what the MPS et does not want to be seen entering into because it is a bit too difficult. How does that work and what do you say to that charge?
Because a number of people, not around this table, but some will say it around this table, but others outside will say that the MPS did not do the thorough job that the MPS should have done on this particular occasion and I think there are some other side issues as well but you are not being asked to account for that today. What do you say to that?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): I am not quite sure what information you are seeking. You said to provide material, but I’m not quite sure what material you are —
Len Duvall AM: Are you sensitised enough to understand that others may have a view that the MPS did not do the full job because it did not want to upset or it did not want to enter a political environment, all right?
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): I will sit here and say that is most definitely not the case. Now clearly I am not going to provide a running commentary on individual investigations because you know I simply am not able to do that.
Len Duvall AM: I am not asking that.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): I think it is about checks and balances, I think the point you were making.
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): Chairman, I am still not quite clear what is being sought.
Andrew Dismore AM: It is about political interference.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): Yes, it is checks and balances against any temptation to be interfered with politically.
Len Duvall AM: Political with a small P, not necessarily a large P.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): OK, got that.
Len Duvall AM: Within your organisation [The MPS].
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): I am sorry, Chair, but I am still not clear what is being sought from us.
Len Duvall AM: OK, we might be clearer when we read the transcript and we come back and we will follow up with some further questions.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): Well whatever phraseology you would use, and I am going to put it to you directly, maybe more directly than some of my colleagues, that this whole case, and I do not expect you will agree with me, is a litany of incompetence and negligence at the very least.
Commander Stuart Cundy (Special Enquiry Team, MPS): I would dispute that.
Unmesh Desai AM (Deputy Chair): Obviously, you will dispute it. Finally, Chairman, can I also note the sterling work done by petitioners and the work that other agents were supposed to be doing and there are some considerable legal bills.
Steve O’Connell AM (Chairman): It is our longest session, which is good. I think it needed that time. I think what has come out loud and clear is, in Mayor Biggs’s words, the unfinished business, the fact that the good residents of Tower Hamlets, many of them do not feel they have had proper closure and I think these are things that we as a Committee will be thinking about. We are going to go away, consider what work we need to do, what other information we need from your good selves. Again, I would thank you very much for this morning
For more information
- Minutes – Appendix 1 – Letter from Councillor Peter Golds PDF 274 KB
- Minutes – Appendix 2- Transcript of Item 7 – Tackling Allegations of Electoral Fraud and Malpractice Part One PDF 325 KB View as RTF 317 KB
- Minutes – Appendix 3- Transcript of Item 7 – Tackling Allegations of Electoral Fraud and Malpractice Part Two PDF 327 KB View as RTF 286 KB