Tower Hamlets electoral fraud police inquiry ends with no charges
Operation Lynemouth cost £1.7 million.
A £1.7 million police inquiry into electoral fraud during the 2014 Tower Hamlets mayoral election has ended without sufficient evidence to charge anyone, Scotland Yard said.
Operation Lynemouth was launched in May 2017 to determine whether criminal charges should follow after an Election Court found former mayor Luftur Rahman guilty of a litany of corrupt and illegal practices.
Mr Rahman was forced to step down, but had not faced prosecution.
A fresh investigation into the voided mayoral election came amid concern that police were failing to prosecute what a court deemed to be corrupt.
The Metropolitan Police announced on Friday that the inquiry had unearthed “prima facie evidence” of a serious offence “not directly linked” to election fraud.
But, it said, the year-long probe involving 20 detectives and police staff “has not identified sufficient additional evidence or investigative opportunities to enable the Met to request the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider the charging of any individual in relation to offences of electoral fraud and malpractice arising from the 2014 mayoral election”.
Explaining the decision, commander Stuart Cundy said rules concerning the admissibility of evidence meant the Election Court would necessarily examine a different case to a criminal court.
Evidence related to the new offence has been passed on to City of London police due to its “nature”, according to the Met.
Changes to how police officers are trained and deployed during elections and how criminal investigations into election fraud are conducted have come as a result of the inquiry, it added.
Scotland Yard said the investigation had four strands, including a review of 27 files of documents from the 2015 Election Court hearing and an assessment of all evidence of electoral fraud and malpractice relating to the vote.
Detectives examined evidence relating to 169 separate allegations plus the newly-identified offence, trawling through 2,450 documents and statements, 28 days of election court transcripts and “several thousand pages of digital material”.
Mr Mawrey QC was clear that the rules and procedures for the admissibility of evidence in an election court is quite different to criminal proceedings Commander Stuart Cundy
Prosecutors were handed the force’s findings, but they advised it was “very unlikely that the Code for Crown Prosecutors test would ever be passed in respect of the potential offences that had been identified”.
The Met revealed 66 of the 170 allegations concerned behaviour that was not found to be criminal, nine were duplicates of offences previously recorded by police, 16 related to “ghost voters” which were found to be errors and 18 concerned postal votes rejected due to suspicious signatures, none of which were found to be criminal.
It also re-investigated 61 allegations and found the previous police conclusions were apt, namely one criminal charge over a false statement on a nomination paper, two police cautions and six written warnings.
The one charge was dismissed when it reached court after prosecutors offered no evidence.
Scotland Yard said the third strand of its investigation was a reassessment of criminal allegations against Mr Rahman and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
One allegation is still being investigated by the Met Police, three form part of a wider City of London investigation, two had already been through court and two had been dealt with by the relevant investigative or regulatory body, it said.
There was insufficient evidence in six of the allegations against the two parties and in four cases it was found allegations did not warrant additional investigation.
Finally, Scotland Yard was itself being reviewed by the City of London Police over its investigation into grant funding for the Communities, Localities and Culture Youth Project.
It was found “all reasonable lines of inquiry” had been explored, but areas for training and learning were identified.
Mr Cundy, who led the investigation, said: “The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) undertook this new investigation because it recognised there were concerns about the previous police investigations, and it was important to identify any immediate matters for action in advance of the 2018 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets.
“I know some will remain concerned as to why the criminal investigation has not led to persons being convicted of a criminal offence. As explained in his judgment, Mr Mawrey QC was clear that the rules and procedures for the admissibility of evidence in an election court is quite different to criminal proceedings. In reaching its conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to seek any new charging decision for a criminal offence, our re-investigation has robustly considered all the evidence that is available.
“The Met is absolutely committed to effectively investigating criminal allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice, which is why despite the significant operational challenges facing the MPS we have thoroughly re-investigated all matters relating to the 2014 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets.”
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspected the Met’s investigation, publishing four interim assurance reports.