Travel agents across Tower Hamlets may have experienced a sudden surge in demand for quick getaways today following the news that ‘Operation Lynemouth’, a new criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police into allegations of criminal activity in Tower Hamlets, is underway
The move comes after the request by the GLA Police & Crime Committee to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) for an inquiry into the Met’s handling of the allegations of electoral fraud and connected matters in Tower Hamlets.
‘Operation Lynemouth’ is the result of an internal analysis by the Met of their previous investigations.
A new investigation strategy has been developed to look at all of the alleged criminal activity as a whole. The four main strands are explained below.
Welcome news but not there yet
“I have been pursuing this case diligently and have a meeting with the Met scheduled for this week,” said Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse. “This is welcome news but we’re not there yet.”
Jim has repeatedly brought this issue up in the House of Commons and in so doing kept it in the public eye and maintained pressure on the authorities to get the problem fixed.
“I welcome that the Met have finally accepted they need to look again at the electoral fraud found by the election court to see what charges, if any, can be bought against those involved, said Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs in a press statement.
“It beggars belief that despite the Courts finding Tower Hamlets First guilty of corruption and overturning the election the Met have yet to convict anyone.
“It’s astounding that people who were corruptly elected as part of a now banned political party can still be active in local politics,” added Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets Cllr Sirajul Islam.
“Despite being at the top of Tower Hamlets First, one of Lutfur Rahman’s Deputy Mayor’s is standing for Parliament, with another two of his top lieutenants running for Mayor.
“Under John Biggs we have turned the council around and are cleaning up the chaos and wrong-doing left by Lutfur Rahman and his colleagues. The former Tower Hamlets First councillors however seem to have learnt nothing. I hope this new investigation will help to ensure those that served at the top of a party intent on corrupting our democracy are never allowed near power again.”
Failing to grasp the bigger picture
The fundamental flaw of the Met not looking at the bigger picture has been specifically referenced previously by Steve O’Connell AM, Chair of the GLA Police and Crime Committee who has said that there was a “sense that Met officers failed to grasp the big picture, join up the dots and pursue the guiding mind behind the mass of inappropriate activity that was brought to their attention.”
To be fair to the Met it may simply have not comprehended the all encompassing scale of the alleged criminal activities during the Tower Hamlets First administration.
Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan has been appointed to provide oversight of the new consolidated criminal investigation.
Met Police statement in full
“The MPS recognises that concerns have been raised about the previous police investigations into criminal allegations of electoral fraud and other matters in relation to the 2014 Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election.
Following the 2014 election, the MPS received 164 allegations relating to electoral fraud and malpractice in Tower Hamlets. Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the police investigations resulted in one person being charged with a candidate nomination offence; two persons being cautioned; and a further six individuals receiving verbal or written warnings about their conduct.
Following an internal analysis of these investigations, the MPS has now commenced a new operation to examine, and where required, investigate the criminal allegations.
Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan will provide senior operational oversight of the new MPS response.
Commander Stuart Cundy and an experienced senior investigating officer from Specialist Crime and Operations will lead the enquiry, with the appropriate resources.
A team of specialist investigators will look at the totality of alleged criminal offending and bring various investigative strands together, including:
 A review of 27 files arising from the Election Court which were provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The MPS will work with the CPS to ascertain whether those files contain anything that changes the previous advice from the CPS, changes the decisions made by the MPS, or requires further investigation.
 A review of all available evidence in relation to electoral fraud and malpractice, and any new investigations into criminal offences that are identified.
 Investigations and assessments into other criminal allegations relating to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
 The MPS has voluntarily asked the City of London Police to conduct an independent review into the MPS investigation into criminal allegations surrounding grant funding in relation to the Tower Hamlets Communities, Localities and Culture Youth Project.
The Deputy Mayor [of London] has also invited Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to review the MPS’ handling of electoral fraud and other matters in Tower Hamlets.
The MPS is working closely with officers from HMIC and we are fully supporting their review.
The MPS is committed to ensuring the integrity of the electoral process in London.
The new investigations will pursue reasonable and proportionate lines of enquiry to identify criminal offending and bring those responsible to justice.
Blimey! Sounds like the Met mean business this time.
Reading between the lines
Any and all public statements on matters as important as this are carefully worded and warrant careful analysis. Here is LW’s interpretation of what the above statement means.
“A review of 27 files arising from the Election Court which were provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
This is just what it says, a review of the 27 lever-arch ring files bursting with the documentation generated by the Election Court case that was provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions after the judgement but not properly examined by the Met for possible criminal activity.
“A review of all available evidence in relation to electoral fraud and malpractice, and any new investigations into criminal offences that are identified.”
Note the use of the words ‘all available evidence’ and ‘any new investigations’ here. This may mean the scandal of the Lunch Clubs can be included. The issue of grants being used to influence votes can be included. The motives and organisation of the Youth Services can be included. The mass data theft of Tower Hamlets Homes residents personal details which were then used for electioneering by Tower Hamlets First can be included.
And the rest.
A large amount of evidence regarding to activities of the Tower Hamlets First administration has only emerged after the conclusion of the Election Court case.
Good old fashioned criminal allegations
“Investigations and assessments into other criminal allegations relating to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets..”
This is the most significant sentence in the Met statement because it is not qualified with ‘in relation to electoral fraud and malpractice’ or similar, just plain and simple good old fashioned criminal allegations.
“The MPS has voluntarily asked the City of London Police to conduct an independent review into the MPS investigation into criminal allegations surrounding grant funding in relation to the Tower Hamlets Communities, Localities and Culture Youth Project..”
Hmm… Interesting one this.
First off the City of London police is the national policing lead for all serious and complex fraud across the country. Like the SAS tackling unusual accounting and dodgy deals so if there is anything to be found they will find it. (Apologies to any Hereford residents amongst our readers.)
LW is not at the moment able to precisely define exactly what the ‘Communities, Localities and Culture Youth Project’ might be.
It could refer to a specific dodgy Youth Project run under the auspices of the Council’s Communities, Localities and Culture (CLC) Directorate but then we understand there were so many dodgy projects run by CLC that it would be tricky to choose one for special attention.
So it might be referring to all the CLC Youth Projects during the Tower Hamlets First administration, which would be a sensible approach from what we know.
Or it might be specifically referring to Rahman’s Youth Services, the activities of which LW has been investigating for quite some time.
But we don’t know.
LW also understands that the Operation Lynemouth will take into account information arising from the Tower Hamlets Council Clear-Up Team’s work, the results of which should be available in the not too distant future, and information provided by the DCLG Commissioners. If anyone knows where the skeletons are buried it is the Commissioners.
News of a new investigation by the Met into all the alleged wrongdoing in the borough is very good news and should be welcomed by all law abiding residents of Tower Hamlets.
The issue of corruption in our borough is a national issue, not just something specific to the East End. In the words of Giles Broadbent of The Wharf “It was an egregious assault on democracy involving corruption and illegality.”
We still need to be patient as the Met needs time to conduct a criminal investigation of this magnitude, quite possibly up to 12 months. Even at the end of that if charges are brought – and there is no guarantee there will be – there could be another 12 months to wait for justice to take its course through the courts system.
Which means LW will still be writing about all this in two years time. Sigh. Maybe our Investigative Team could get time off for good behaviour?
So those who may now be expecting a knock on their door in the early hours of the morning as Operation Lynemouth gains momentum might be well advised to choose a very long-term holiday destination that does not have an extradition agreement with the UK.