The widely condemned mishandling of the Lutfur Rahman scandal by the Metropolitan Police will be investigated by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the police watchdog.
There have been numerous calls for some probe into the Met’s activities since its Special Enquiry Team said it would take no further action against the disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor and his acolytes following a High Court case that exposed the extent of corruption at the Town Hall.
Pressure has been building for months. Questions were raised in Parliament, campaigners were angered by the decision and, only recently, the London Assembly called for action after exposing “major failings”.
The police had claimed that there was never sufficient evidence and that the civil High Court worked to a different standard of guilt than the High Court. However, both those claims were shown to be demonstrably misleading and contrary to the Judge’s own claims.
There was astonishment earler in March when police admitted they hadn’t even passed the file to the CPS for a decision , instead deciding to take no further actions themselves despite apparently misunderstanding the legal complexities involved. Meanwhile, it was also revealed that 27 files sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions were never acted upon.
Command trust and confidence
Now the Mayor of London’s deputy mayor for policing Sophie Linden has used her powers to seek an investigation into “major failings” over the 2014 mayoral race, which Mr Rahman won through illegal and corrupt practices.
Mr Rahman is now attempting to make a political comeback using the police’s inaction as vindication of his innocence.
In the letter to the HMIC, Ms Linden say: “It is right, particularly in cases such as these, that there is no political pressure whatsoever applied to the police and that they should be able to carry out their investigations, which are ongoing, without fear or favour.
“That said, I am keen to ensure the investigations can command the trust and confidence of Londoners and particularly residents of Tower Hamlets, who are keen to see the integrity of the democratic process robustly secured.
“The public need to have the highest level of confidence that any and all criminal prosecutions have been considered and pursued.”
She asks to "exercise her powers provided fro in Section 54 of the Police Act 1996 to invite you to carry out an inspection into this case and make recommendations for future improvement."
A serious crime
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, who won the vote in the election that followed Mr Rahman’s ban, said: “I welcome the decision. Protecting the security and integrity of our democracy is vitally important.
"Trying to steal an election is a serious crime and local people are rightly deeply frustrated that despite Lutfur Rahman and his colleagues being found guilty by the Election Court, the police have failed to bring criminal charges against anyone involved.
“Even now, there is a culture of denial with for example two councillors who were at the heart of Rahman’s banned Tower Hamlets First party announcing they are picking up his mantle and are intent on running for Mayor in 2018.
“Despite considerable scrutiny it remains unclear why the police failed to speak to key witnesses and left boxes of evidence untouched. I hope that HMIC’s review will help to reassure the public that this will not be able to happen again.”
Ms Linden’s role replicates that of Police and Crime Commissioners elsewhere around the country and has the power to commission an HMIC inquiry, with their findings made public. The HMIC independently assesses policing and the inspectors are appointed by the Crown, not the police service.
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