London Assembly fury at Met Police failing to interview Tower Hamlets election fraud witnesses
PUBLISHED: 17:37 09 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:39 09 February 2017
A leading east London councillor has been embroiled in a row at City Hall with a police commander during today's London Assembly hearing into election fraud and why the Met failed to interview witnesses willing to testify.
Tory Opposition Leader Peter Golds sent many letters with witness names and details of election fraud to Scotland Yard before and during the tainted 2014 election that returned disgraced mayor Lutfur Rahman to office before later being barred by the High Court.
Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam had also personally delivered a list of 20 names with evidence of malpractice directly to Scotland Yard.
No prosecutions have been made against fraudsters, despite the High Court ruling about voter intimidation, bribery and other election malpractices.
“I would have given admissible statements as evidence after the election,” Cllr Gold’s told the Assembly’s Police and Crime committee. “But no-one asked me for it.
“There are people here in the public gallery who would have given evidence, but not one of us were asked.”
He pointed to the gallery and held up a copy of one of the letters he sent to Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, then snapped at Met Commander Stuart Cundy: “So here is your evidence!”
Mr Cundy claimed Cllr Golds had been interviewed, which was strongly denied in a heated exchange. He was challenged to produce dates of any interviews—but couldn’t.
The Met came under fire at the three-hour public hearing for not having made arrests in two years, despite the raft of evidence including altered ballot papers and polling station intimidation uncovered during the six-week High Court hearing in 2015 into the election the year before.
The current Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs, who won the re-run election for Labour to take over from Rahman’s banned corrupt administration, told today’s hearing: “Electoral fraud wasn’t taken seriously. Very few people seem to have been asked to give evidence.”
Only Rahman and Alibor Choudhury, described by in the high Court judgement as his “henchman”, were barred from office—while another 17 councillors in his now-disqualified party were still in office, Mayor Biggs pointed out.
The mayor added: “The judgement said 19 people were unlawfully elected including Rahman, but 17 were not listed in the petition, including one since jailed for housing fraud. “The rest are still on the council collecting their expenses, making decisions. Their party was improperly set up, not registered or run properly, but nothing further has happened against them—there’s a lot of unfinished business.”
Police claimed they had difficulty with witnesses not wanting to give evidence in a criminal court. They decided the investigation “wasn’t going anywhere” and did not to refer cases to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Cmdr Cundy admitted: “We could and should have done more and to engage with the election petitioners.
“We can only follow where evidence takes us. There are things we could have done better.”
The 164 complaints on record included 47 for intimidation, 27 for postal ballot rigging and 17 bogus or ‘ghost’ voters. Police insisted suspects were interviewed, some under caution.
One person was charged out of the 164, with just two formally cautioned.
The election petition that brought Rahman down was led by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, with three others. Police tried to arrest him six days before the High Court case began, today’s hearing was told. They turned up at his home in Bow at 7am accusing him of “perverting justice”, concerning a statement he took from a witness that he passed to Scotland Yard.
He has “not been charged in relation to these matters”, Cmdr Cundy assured.
Erlam is urging the London Assembly to press for an Election Fraud office to be set up at Scotland Yard with the Electoral Commission.