Met Police 'blind eye' condemned in Pickles Report for no action on Tower Hamlets election frauds
PUBLISHED: 15:13 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 14:39 15 August 2016
Politicians have reacted with fury in London's East End over findings released today by Sir Eric Pickles that police and the judiciary are "turning a blind eye" to election fraud.
The East End is still in the shadows of last year’s massive election fraud trial in the High Court which barred disgraced Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman from office for five years for corruption and malpractice.
Sir Eric—who was Communities Secretary when he sent commissioners into the Town Hall to tackle the corruption–says election fraudsters are getting away with it because of “political correctness” not to offend ethnic groups.
Women and young voters in particular are pressured to follow the will of elders, especially in communities of Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, his report stresses.
He attacks the failures of police and election watchdogs to detect, prevent and prosecute election fraud.
The report was commissioned following the case brought by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam and three other private citizens—not the police.
Erlam told the East London Advertiser today: “The negligence and worse of the Met to decide not to prosecute election fraud offenders is an utter disgrace. Scotland Yard senior officers admitted they hadn’t even read the Election Court judgement. The Met never had any intention to prosecute for reasons known to itself.”
He added: “The election fraudsters were convicted to the criminal standard ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and the police say there’s no evidence. Its unbelievable!”
Opposition Tory councillors were the first to complain to the Secretary of State over malpractice under the secretive Rahman administration and called in the Communities Secretary in 2014 to investigate, which led to the commissioners being sent in at the end of 2014 who are still at the Town Hall.
But worst of all has been lack of any police action against those involved in election fraud, despite overwhelming evidence, say Town Hall politicians.
Tory Group leader Peter Golds said: “I went to a thoroughly-depressing meeting two weeks ago with the Met Police who once again showed how out of their depth they are in handling voter fraud.
“It should not be private citizens who do the job that the police should be doing.”
The Met maintained there was a “lack of evidence” while at the same time ignored “the vast evidence that was given to them”, Cllr Golds pointed out.
Rahman’s downfall in April, 2015, resulted in the election the previous year that returned his corrupt regime to Office being re-run.
Labour won back control of the council in the re-run when veteran City Hall politician John Biggs—defeated the year before by Rahman’s corrupt election for mayor—swept to victory in the 2015 re-run, heavily defeating Rahman’s ‘Tower Hamlets First’ party protégé candidate.
Mayor Biggs commented today: “Tower Hamlets First’s mockery of the electoral system was clearly a criminal act. What concerns me most is not only was nobody prosecuted under the current perverse rules, but many candidates who benefitted from Rahman’s corrupt practices have faced no action and remain councillors.”
He referred to the rump of Rahman’s now-disbanded party which remains on the council as an independent group.
“We have made changes to tighten up our electoral systems since 2014,” the new mayor added.
He also paid tribute to Andy Erlam’s campaign—the “four members of the public who risked everything to challenge the corrupt 2014 mayoral election result”.
Both Labour and Conservative groups are calling for better safeguards to protect and support people who have evidence of fraud and wrongdoing.
But Tory cllr Golds slammed the Met Police over the lack of prosecutions. He insisted: “The electoral system must be fair for all voters and the acceptance of practices must cease which damage democracy under the guise of ‘cultural’ activities which is an excuse popular with the Metropolitan Police.”
Sir Eric also attacks the Met Police for failing to follow up the election court’s ruling with its mass of evidence with criminal charges.
He said: “This is no excuse for failing to enforce British law and protect the integrity of our democratic process.
“It is astonishing following the Tower Hamlets case that no criminal prosecution has been brought.
“The election court disqualified Lutfur Rahman and his agent for a litany of corrupt and illegal practices.
“Rahman was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt—to a criminal standard of proof.
“Yet no further action has been taken against disqualified individuals or the now-disbanded political party.”
His damning report urges electoral malpractice to be investigated by the National Crime Agency rather than local police officers who critics say are out of their depth.
“Our nation has a proud heritage as the ‘Mother of Parliaments’,” Sir Eric added. “Yet the spread of electoral fraud and state of denial threatens that reputation. It is time to take on the electoral crooks and defend Britain’s free and fair elections.”
Sir Eric’s recommendations are to ban political activists handling postal ballot papers, to have proof of a voter’s identity at polling stations, to scrap ‘permanent’ postal votes that would make sure ballot papers only go to electors still at the address, to have stronger police powers in tackling intimidation outside polling stations and for tougher checks on the electoral register to prevent it being used for immigration and benefit fraud.
His proposals also include “learning the lessons from Tower Hamlets with ‘corrupt-busting’ powers for the press, public and councillors to scrutinise decisions of elected mayors and cabinets, from whistle-blowing protection to stronger rights to inspect council documents”.