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Tower Hamlets Mayor demanding why Met Police took no action on election fraud at London Assembly hearing

PUBLISHED: 09:18 09 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:32 09 February 2017

Mayor John Biggs speaking at Wednesday night's Isle of Dogs public planning forum

Mayor John Biggs speaking at Wednesday night's Isle of Dogs public planning forum

Archant

Police are under fire from council leaders in east London at City Hall this-morning over their failure to prosecute anyone following the corrupted 2014 Tower Hamlets local elections.

Defiant Lutfur Rahman at rally in 2015 after his ban from office [photo: Mike Brooke]Defiant Lutfur Rahman at rally in 2015 after his ban from office [photo: Mike Brooke]

The London Assembly’s Police and Crime committee wants to know why no-one has been charged with criminal offences.

They are to hear from current Labour mayor John Biggs who won the re-run election in 2015 after the High Court banned disgraced Lutfur Rahman from office for voting fraud and malpractice.

He gives evidence at the hearing at City Hall starting 10am along with the council’s Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds and government-appointed commissioner Sir Ken Knight who was sent in by the Secretary of State to take over Town Hall spending under Rahman.

Mayor John BiggsMayor John Biggs

“I am frustrated that the police don’t seem to have investigated this with the thoroughness that the public interest required,” Mayor Biggs told the East London Advertiser last night.

“There is a public interest that says this is a very serious offence against the democratic process—we should expect our police force to investigate it more thoroughly than appears to have been the case.”

Senior figures being quizzed at City Hall include Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy, who headed Scotland Yard’s Special Enquiry Team into election fraud and malpractice.

Corrupt elections... Tower Hamlets councilCorrupt elections... Tower Hamlets council

Cmndr Cundy’s team which concluded its investigation last March received 164 allegations of Tower Hamlets election malpractice in 2014 and a further 111 the following year—but no-one was ever arrested of prosecuted, despite the evidence uncovered in the High Court.

Scotland Yard insisted yesterday that every allegation was “investigated to understand what, if any, criminal offences had been committed”—but a decision was made with the Crown Prosecution Service there was insufficient evidence that criminal offences had been committed or enough to support a prosecution.

But Mayor Biggs insists that isn’t good enough.

Cllr Peter Golds at the Isle of Dogs planning forumCllr Peter Golds at the Isle of Dogs planning forum

“They’re right in that technical sense,” he said. “But we feel the findings of the election court judge was sufficiently clear cut that there was a case that could have been made against several independent councillors—had the police investigated.

“Many people in east London are surprised by that because there were abuses and feel they should have been followed up with police action.

“This is a very serious offence against the democratic process—we should expect our police to investigate it more thoroughly than appears to have been the case.”

Tower Hamlets elections and (inset) anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam  [archive election photo: Chris Harris]Tower Hamlets elections and (inset) anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam [archive election photo: Chris Harris]

Politicians in east London in their evidence this morning are claiming the Met had been frightened off by “political correctness”.

Cllr Peter Golds accuses the police of “incompetence” and being “terrified of approaching Lutfur Rahman”.

He tells today’s East London Advertiser: “They are paralysed with political correctness—they’ll arrest people for driving 23mph over Tower Bridge at 3am, but won’t arrest a man whose corrupted local government.”

Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, whose High Court election petition in 2015 brought down Rahman, accuses the police in his evidence to today’s inquiry of ignoring the evidence and statements from the list of witnesses he sent to Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at New Scotland Yard that year, who were willing to testify in court. None on the list was ever called for interview by police.

He says in his submission to City Hall this-morning includes allegations that some money defrauded from Tower Hamlets council has been sent to ISIS in Syria.

Erlam is also urging the London Assembly to press for an Election Fraud office to be set up at Scotland Yard with the Electoral Commission.

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