Major failings were made by the Metropolitan Police when investigating the deposed mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, a London Assembly committee said on Friday.
Rahman was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices in 2015 by an election court and removed from office. He was also investigated by the Met police, who failed to successfully prosecute him following accusations of fraud, bribery and corruption and has yet to face criminal charges.
The London Assembly’s police and crime committee, chaired by Steve O’Connell, reviewed the Met’s investigation of Rahman. On March 10 they concluded that the Met’s investigation was a “shocking failure”.
O’Connell spoke on Friday of the Met’s mistakes. He said: “During our investigation, we, as a committee, have been shocked to uncover major failings by the Metropolitan Police in its ability to investigate allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice.”
Failings of the Met according to O’Connell included “missed files of evidence; missed opportunities to gather witness statements; witnesses who were prepared to give evidence in the Election Court but were unwilling to do so in criminal proceedings”.
He continued: “This is not what we expect from a supposedly world-leading police force.”
The investigation looked into the problems of confronting election fraud. It was revealed during the investigation that 27 files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which were not reviewed by the Police.
In reference to these files, the Met Police told Eastlondonlines: “These 27 files were provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions. On behalf of the DPP, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considered the 27 files and decided not to refer any matters to the police for investigation.”
Following the London Assembly committee meeting on Friday, the Met told Eastlondonlines: “The CPS and the Met Police have agreed to undertake a further joint assessment of the files to see whether they contain anything that changes the advice previously provided by the CPS, changes the decisions previously made by the Met Police, or requires further investigation by the Met Police.”
They concluded that a stronger investigation by the Met at the time could have resulted in a successful criminal prosecution of Rahman.
It may now be too late to investigate Rahman for alleged electoral fraud for legal reasons. However Rahman could potentially face an investigation into other allegations from his time as Mayor, O’Connell said in an open letter to Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden.
O’Connell concluded his letter to Linden: “While time limited constraints […] may prevent any prosecution of past electoral malpractice by Mr Rahman, offences of bribery, corruption, and conspiracy have no time limit for bringing charges. There may still, therefore, be opportunities to mount a criminal prosecution and bring a sense of closure to what has been a systematic affront to the democratic process.”
In the letter, O’Connell also said: “There is a deepening sense among Londoners that justice has not been seen to be done.”
Similarly, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, told Eastlondonlines: “Many people in Tower Hamlets are understandably mystified why those who tried so hard to steal the 2014 election have yet to be fully held to account.
“There is deep frustration that the process stopped without criminal charges. On the basis of the evidence in the election court, there were many leads to follow… Thankfully electoral fraud is rare but where it does happen we need confidence that the police have the skills and motivation to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice.”
Lutfur Rahman couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of posting.