Met concludes £1.7m investigation into Tower Hamlets 2014 mayoral election

Lutfur Rahman. Picture: Mike Brooke

Lutfur Rahman. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Detectives have concluded an investigation into allegations relating to the corrupt Tower Hamlets’ 2014 mayoral election.

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy. Pic: GLA

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy. Pic: GLA - Credit: GLA

The £1.7million probe reviewed 27 files from the 2015 High Court hearing which declared Lutfur Rahman’s election void, assessed evidence of fraud and reassesed extra allegations linked to the borough’s first directly elected mayor.

Operation Lynemouth was also launched after a row at City Hall about the first police investigation which came under fire because there were no criminal charges.

Met Police commander Stuart Cundy said that detectives had not uncovered any evidence which could lead to new charges being made against anyone in relation to electoral fraud.

He added: “Our reinvestigation has robustly considered all the evidence that is available.”

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However, the new investigation identified evidence of a serious criminal offence not directly related to electoral fraud now handed over to City of London police.

Today’s conclusion means the new investigation does not challenge the 2015 judgement made by Judge Richard Mawrey with the evidence in the Election Court wider than that allowed in a criminal investigation.

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In total 15 detectives looked into 170 separate allegations scanning more than 2,450 documents, 28 days of election court records and thousands of pages of digital material.

Of the allegations, 66 didn’t add up to criminal offences and another 16 – related to “ghost voters” – were revealed as errors.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs. Pic: LBTH

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs. Pic: LBTH - Credit: Archant

None of the 18 allegations relating to postal votes – rejected because of doubts about signatures – added up to a criminal offence.

Police agreed with the results of the first investigation which issued cautions to two people and written warnings to another six.

The total cost of Operation Lynemouth was £1.7m after involving 20 detectives and police staff.

Mr Cundy said: “I know some will remain concerned as to why the criminal investigation has not led to persons being convicted of a criminal offence.

“Judge Mawrey was clear that the rules for admitting evidence in an election court is quite different to criminal proceedings.”

The reinvestigation he admitted had identified areas the Met needed to learn from, including its elections policing, training, engagement and record-keeping.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said evidence of a serious criminal offence may not have come to light if repeated calls for an examination of evidence hadn’t been made.

Mayor Biggs said: “It’s positive that the Met has recognised there are aspects of the original investigation they needed to learn from. However, there has been a deep frustration over delays.

“Over four years on from an election that was declared void, people have been rightly concerned about a lack of priority given to serious allegations.

“Residents need to have confidence that where there are claims of criminality they are properly investigated.

“Thanks to the election petitioners the unlawful election was overturned, and I continue to press the government to now do the right thing and settle their legal fees. It’s the least that can be done for those that stood up for justice and democracy.

“Tower Hamlets has moved on since this unsavoury chapter in its history. We have transformed the ways we work. The 2018 mayoral and local election was significant in that it was a fair and secure election, and all but one of Lutfur Rahman’s former councillors lost their seats. We look forward to the final resolution of any further outstanding investigation.”

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