Cllr Peter Golds is Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council.
It may just be coincidence that the Metropolitan Police chose Budget Day to publish an extraordinary press release announcing that there were to be no prosecutions in the wake of the landmark Tower Hamlets election petition of 2015.
The wording of the press release was as strange as the conclusions.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
“The Metropolitan Police Service Special Enquiry Team (SET) has now finished its assessment of the information arising from the 200 page report published in April 2015 by the High Court following the election petition hearing.
“After full consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service a decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence that criminal offences had been committed.”
Note line two refers to a 200 page report. The unnamed author of this press release presumably means the 200 page Judgement of the Tower Hamlets Election Court. A Judgement, not least one handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice, is not a report. It is, as headed, a Judgement.
Furthermore, the Judgement came after the longest election petition hearing in decades. There were five weeks of oral evidence, hundreds of witness statements, and thousands of pages of backing documents. All of which is available to the police.
Lutfur Rahman and his agents were found to have committed corrupt and illegal practices, bribery and vote fraud on an industrial scale.
In paragraph 47 of the Judgement the Commissioner states in the starkest terms:
“There was no controversy at the hearing about the standard of proof the court must apply to the charges of corrupt and illegal practices. It is settled law that the court must apply the criminal standard of proof, namely proof beyond reasonable doubt. This was definitively decided by the Court of Appeal in R v Rowe, ex parte Mainwaring8, a decision binding on this court.”
So there, in the Judgement, read in open court is confirmation of the application of criminal proof, which is reiterated in other paragraphs.
Did the Metropolitan Police Service read this, or did they focus on a previously unknown “report”?
In January, Lord Justice Lloyd-Jones of the Supreme Court, sitting with Justice Supperstone, dismissed Rahman’s application for a Judicial Review on aspects of the Judgement. Had Commissioner Mawrey not applied the criminal standard of proof, or were it not present in the vast array of available documents relating to the case, then these two vastly experienced Judges would surely have made reference to this. Instead they dismissed the application for Judicial Review.
In doing so, the 2015 Judgement, with the criminal standard of proof remains, as a Judgement as to the level of corruption in Tower Hamlets.
Scotland Yard abdicated from this investigation with all its evidence less than a week before closing down Operation Midland which saw the tarnishing of reputations of leading public servants based on the ramblings of a known fantasist. Why do I mention this? The lead officer in charge of policing the shambolic Tower Hamlets election of May 2014, was in April of that year, pressurised by Tom Watson MP into continuing the flawed and failed investigation of the late Lord Brittan. Not a particularly successful example of multi tasking.
Returning to the dismissal of Lutfur Rahman’s attempted Judicial Review, did the police take that into consideration?
During the weeks of the election petition the level of malpractice shocked listeners. In addition to the seven grounds of dismissal of Rahman, witnesses routinely committed perjury on oath. This included an individual who described voting in a polling station and was then provided with the evidence that he had voted by post well before the election and therefore could not answer as to what he was doing voting in a polling station. He was not the only one. The Rahman legal team subsequently declined to call other witnesses of whom there was documented proof of their voting which contradicted sworn witness statements.
Then there was the candidate named in Court as a false voter who, due to a countermanded poll, contested two elections in two different wards in the space of six weeks, using two different names and two different false addresses.
The filed return of election expenses drove a coach and horses through any standard electoral return of expenses. Rahman’s agent admitted to having no accounting procedures and operating a “virtual bank account.” The court was led to believe that his mother had a full colour mainframe printer capable of printing and folding over 100,000 A3 leaflets in her living room.
Included in the return of expenses was an example of a leaflet without printer or publisher which had been widely distributed defaming opposition candidates.
All of this information, researched and with backing documentation was known to the police before the court hearing.
Then of course was the small matter of suddenly registering a £30,000 donation during the petition hearing.
These were just some examples which may have provoked the paragraph in the Judgement likening the Metropolitan Police, whose knowledge and indifference to the corruption goes back years, to the proverbial “Three Wise Monkeys”.
After the court hearing I had a single call from a police officer who asked me if I was satisfied with the case.
I was certainly not invited to amplify my various statements or provide additional material for any police investigation, and I have files of it.
Two others involved in the case spoke to officers who had NOT actually read the Judgement – perhaps they were working on the previously unseen and unknown report.
Andy Erlam, the lead petitioner, and the second petitioner, Azmal Hussain, faced absurd questions by the police as a result of numerous vexatious complaints initiated by Tower Hamlets First Supporters.
Potential witnesses were intimidated, in one case within the Royal Courts of Justice, and the Rahman friendly special media issued constant veiled threats against Bangladeshi residents who spoke out.
When I complained about being stalked by the bizarre Tower Hamlets First activist who had put on social media that “I was the Imperial Grand Wizard of the Wapping Branch of the Ku Klux Klan,” I was told nothing could be done.
When raising the complaint of the former Tower Hamlets First candidate who had tweeted and put on Facebook, “Let us salute Hitler the Great” the investigating officer indicated that I could be in trouble for accessing this Facebook without invitation.
Incidents of anti-Semitism have grown considerably in the past few years. The failure of the Police to take this seriously is ever more worrying and itself enables anti-semites to become, as we see constantly, ever more overt. A group of local youths when challenged by a journalist from The Guardian simply said “the police do not have the balls to do anything.”
Their indifference to corruption certainly gives an official stamp to that observation.
In the aftermath of the Birmingham, Slough and Woking election petitions the local police successfully prosecuted the fraudsters. Evidence of false voting established in the election courts was used to imprison the criminals.
The Met, for some reason, are completely indifferent.
Here is the local statement by Tower Hamlets Police commenting on the Met’s Budget Day press release. It is exactly as published, I have cut it from the local website:
Today it has been reported in the media that there are to be no criminal charges bought against Mr. Lutfur Rahman. The Metropolitan Police Service press release is below.
Officers have been linking in with local community this morning to assess the any potential increase in tension.
I would like to take this opportunity to request that if you sense any tensions or concerns within the community that you contact me & my team as well as Andy Bamber.
Phil Langworthy | Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Langworthy | Tower Hamlets Operational Command Unit
As can be seen from this, the first priority of the local police is the supporters of Rahman and not the electorate of all political persuasions who have seen repeated elections stolen from them.
For information, Andy Bamber, who is named, is a former senior police office now employed by Tower Hamlets Council.
In 2015 the Electoral Commission, who have yet to publish anything on the election petition, published a brave and complex academic report on vulnerabilities in the electoral process.
However as can be seen from Tom Hawthorn’s article on this site;
“Our research, which included analysis of police data about cases of alleged electoral fraud, showed that proven cases of electoral fraud are thankfully rare and that when fraud is committed candidates and campaigners tend to be the most likely offenders while voters are the victims.”
As you see they base vulnerability on convictions. However if the police fail to prosecute, there are no convictions and therefore no fraud. So the circle of inertia continues.
Even a successful election petition, can be swept under the carpet when the police do nothing.
The effect amongst the Rahman supporters in Tower Hamlets is predictable:
From East London News:
“Mayor Rahman: Again no case to answer”
Here is Councillor Oliur Rahman, former Deputy to Lutfur Rahman:
Press Statement – 18.03.16
Leader of the Opposition (Independent Group) at Tower Hamlets Council, Cllr Oli Rahman, commenting on the Metropolitain Police decision about the former Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s case, said:
“We said consistently that the claims against the former mayor would not meet the standards of a proper professional criminal investigation. This has now been proven by the Metropolitan Police decision beyond any doubt.
A Spectator editor, senior clergymen and the Local Government Chronicle have all said that they believe the election law system is unfit for purpose. Currently, politically-motivated, well-funded opportunists can bring a barrage of smears to court without having to undergo proper scrutiny – and yet genuine complainants face considerable financial barriers in getting their grievances heard.
An election commissioner, jury-less deputy judge, in a civil court casting aside the votes of 37,000 Tower Hamlets residents without a criminal investigation sets a very dangerous precedent for democracy in our country which should concern any fair minded person.
These baseless accusations have been a waste of time while money and attention have been taken away from the public.
The Independent group will continue seek practical solutions for social and economic justice and to stand up for people of Tower Hamlets.”
Well funded opportunists? It was Lutfur Rahman who used millions of pounds of taxpayers money to direct grants to his supporters, which was why he was found guilty of bribery. How this was done was revealed in full detail and most observers would expect there to have been charges of Conspiracy to commit fraud in public office.
The petitioners risked everything in this case and still have yet to receive a penny due to them, whilst the wreckage of Tower Hamlets First claim martyrdom, with a shroud waving testimonial from the Metropolitan Police.
One significant feature of my dealings with the police is their almost total ignorance of election law and the election and political process. I spent time explaining to an officer how examining the postal vote return can demonstrate irregular patterns and indicate fraud. The officer was more interested as to how I came to be in position of this document. This was, incidentally, the same officer whose enquiries into register packing were to speak to the registration office and ask if voters were registered – and leave it at that. His infamous report also resulted in the police admitting that he had actually cut and pasted responses into the wrong place on his final version.
I pass on his enquiry as to the case of the man who died in Bangladesh on an election day but whose postal vote was counted.
Another officer appeared so close to Rahman’s council cronies that at an early hearing he sat with them and they were laughing and joking together as the Court rose.
The ultimate downside is that fraudsters can now look at the Tower Hamlets transcript and Judgement, commit the same frauds and defy any police force to prosecute.
In Rotherham, 1,400 young lives were damaged because the police and the local authority ignored what was well known to them. We cannot have a situation where the electoral process crumbles because the police service is as indifferent to voter fraud as they were to tragedy of Rotherham. It may not be insignificant that one of the peripheral figures in Rotherham was a powerful local politician, with connections to the criminals.
Our election law is in vital need of an update, but when updated it needs enforcing.
The final slap in the face is the last paragraph of the Met statement. It is simply beyond parody:
“The MPS takes any allegations of electoral fraud or malpractice very seriously. We will continue to work closely with the Electoral Commission, and local authorities, to ensure we play our part to protect the integrity of the electoral process in London.”
Now what was it about the three wise monkeys……..