Police under fire at London Assembly for failing to charge Tower Hamlets election fraudsters
PUBLISHED: 14:27 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:56 08 February 2017
Police come under fire at City Hall tomorrow (Thurs) over failing to arrest or prosecute anyone in the corrupt 2014 Tower Hamlets local election which eventually got Lutfur Rahman banned from office—they are being accused of "political correctness" and ignoring witnesses.
The tainted election got Rahman back in for a second term, but he was later banned from office by a High Court ruling in 2015 for malpractice and his election overturned, following a petition brought by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam (above).
Serious allegations of electoral fraud in the run-up to the now-discredited polls reported to police resulted in not one single arrest or prosecution, despite evidence and lists of witnesses willing to testify in court.
Now the London Assembly’s Police and Crime committee wants to know why no-one has been charged with criminal offences, despite 164 complains in 2014 and another 111 from the re-run 2015 election.
Labour’s John Biggs swept into office in 2015 with reforms, replacing Rahman’s banned administration—but with the legacy of government commissioners sent into the Town Hall the year before by the Secretary of State to control how grants were given out and to tackle maladministration. The commissioners finally quit the Town Hall next month, it is understood.
Senior figures being quizzed at City Hall from 10am tomorrow include Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy, who headed Scotland Yard’s Special Enquiry team into election fraud and malpractice.
Giving evidence on the scandal that has rocked the political scene in London’s East End are Town Hall commissioner Sir Ken Knight himself, Labour Mayor Biggs and Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds.
Police maintain they could not go ahead with election fraud proceedings because of “lack of evidence” that would stand up in a criminal court.
But some politicians believe the Met had been frightened off.
“They are paralysed with political correctness,” Cllr Golds tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser. “They are terrified of approaching Lutfur Rahman.
“I am accusing the police of incompetence, absolutely. A lot of it is cock-up over things happening up to 2014.
“They’ll arrest people for driving 23mph over Tower Bridge at 3am—but won’t arrest a man who’s corrupted local government.”
Police have to interview witnesses under the 1984 Police & Criminal Evidence Act with statements that would be admissible in a criminal court, not hearsay.
Even so, Lutfur Rahman’s six-week High Court hearing did produce firm evidence from handwriting experts of vote rigging with altered ballot slips and bogus electoral list registrations.
Campaigner Andy Erlam, whose petition brought down Rahman, accuses the police of ignoring the evidence and statements from the list of witnesses he sent to Scotland Yard who were willing to testify in court. None on the list was ever called for interview.
He has submitted evidence for tomorrow’s hearing, seen by the Advertiser, which accuses the Met of failing to send any files to the Crown Prosecution Service or following up evidence from witnesses willing to help.
He delivered files alleging election fraud to Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at Scotland Yard in June, 2015, with the names of 20 witnesses prepared to help—but never heard back.
His submission tomorrow includes allegations that some money defrauded from Tower Hamlets council has been sent to ISIS in Syria. The police “made absolutely no effort to follow up on these incredibly serious allegations”, he says.
Scotland Yard has confirmed that an investigation by its Special Enquiry team which concluded in March, 2016, received 164 reports of election malpractice.
A police spokesman told the Advertiser today: “Every allegation was recorded and investigated to understand what, if any, criminal offences had been committed.
“A decision was made after full consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service that in all cases there was either insufficient evidence that criminal offences had been committed or enough to support a prosecution.”
Erlam is urging the London Assembly to press for an Election Fraud office to be set up at Scotland Yard with the Electoral Commission.