Friday, November 30, 2007

Labour - Council ban for former city mayor

Lawrence Bailey
At least 70,000 "graphic" images were found on one computer
A former leader of Swansea Council has been banned from becoming a councillor for two-and-a-half years after indecent images were found on his computers.

Lawrence Bailey, 52, was found to have breached codes of conduct by the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

It also found he had broken rules by writing to a local newspaper using false names.

Last year Mr Bailey was cleared of any criminal activity over the pictures found on council-issued computers.

A former Lord Mayor of the city, he was arrested after his computer was sent to the council's repairs department.

He faced a three-month investigation before being told by the Crown Prosecution Service that no proceedings would be pursued.

He resigned as a councillor on Swansea Council in May 2007.

The adjudication panel's report found that three separate computers used by Mr Bailey held indecent images.

Council engineers discovered 6,000 adult images on one laptop's hard-drive.

In some cases the addresses did not exist or the postcodes did not match them, or the true residents had no knowledge of the letters.
Adjudication panel findings on letters to the press

It was replaced, but in 2005 several thousand more pornographic items were discovered on the same machine.

Another computer used by Mr Bailey was discovered to hold at least 70,000 graphic images, of which half were described as "adult hard-core pornography".

The third computer, also a laptop machine, also held indecent pictures.

But the panel also found it contained 253 documents, mostly letters to the Swansea Evening Post.

"Although the police examination showed Mr Bailey as being the author, the documents purported to have originated from various residents of Swansea," stated the report.

"In some cases the addresses did not exist or the postcodes did not match them, or the true residents had no knowledge of the letters."

"Widespread practice"

In his own submission to the panel, Mr Bailey claimed that writing letters to the press under pseudonyms "was widespread practice in political life in Wales".

Publishing its decision, the adjudication panel accepted that Mr Bailey himself admitted misusing computer equipment supplied by the council, and had brought the office of councillor into disrepute.

But banning him from standing as a councillor anywhere in Wales for two-and-a-half years, the panel noted a series of what it described as "aggravating features".

These included the persistent downloading of images over five years, failure to heed advice given on two occasions about his conduct, and the "serious undermining of public confidence" by his actions.

Swansea Council has declined to comment on the panel's decision.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Labour councillor Denies Paying Teenager For Sex

A 62-YEAR-OLD former councillor sat in the witness box yesterday and denied paying a teenage girl for sex.

Richard Manser's alleged sex partner, Joanne McKenna, now 20, is on trial accused of robbing him at knifepoint.

Manser denies giving McKenna cash for sex for three years, starting when she was 16.

The ex-Labour councillor, who quit after the scandal, insisted he did not admit to prosecutors in the case that he had a sexual relationship with the young woman.

And he compared his friendship with McKenna to the relationship between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's famous play Pygmalion.

In the play, Higgins turns street urchin Eliza into a fine lady by teaching her to speak properly.

Asked by McKenna's advocate why a man of 60 would have a relationship with a teenage girl, Manser replied: "I hesitate to mention the name of George Bernard Shaw but there was a bit of Pygmalion involved.

"I am no Henry Higgins and she is no Eliza Doolittle but she was a waif and needed a father figure. I was quite happy to help her."

McKenna, her dad and her then boyfriend deny attacking Manser with a Bowie knife and a Samurai sword and putting him through a two-hour ordeal at his home in Paisley near Glasgow.

Prosecutors claim the trio stole Manser's bank card and McKenna used it to withdraw £600.

Manser told the High Court in Glasgow that McKenna was "a friend and a nuisance" who was always pestering him for cash for cigarettes.

He said she came to his flat on the night of the attack, asked for money, then went to buy cigarettes.

Manser said McKenna then burst back into his home with her father Thomas McKenna and a man he didn't recognise.

He claimed Thomas McKenna was brandishing a Bowie knife and the other man had a Samurai sword.

Manser said that in the two hours that followed, Thomas McKenna hit him on the head with the Bowie knife and guided a kitchen knife in his daughter's hand to "dig" it into the side of his face.

He said his wrists were bound with plastic ties and a sponge was put in his mouth and held with tape.

Manser claimed Joanne McKenna left the flat with his bank card. He said Thomas McKenna told him that if she came back empty handed, he was dead.

Manser quit Renfrewshire Council and the Labour Party after Joanne McKenna spoke to a paper about their alleged relationship.

McKenna's counsel, Sarah Livingstone, accused him of falsely accusing her client of the attack and telling police "a pack of lies" to get back at her. He replied: "I emphatically deny that."

Manser admitted owning porn videos but denied showing them to Joanne McKenna. He also denied asking to film her as she took part in unnatural sexual activity with him.

The witness told Miss Livingstone he quit the council to get a redundancy deal and left the Labour Party because he did not agree with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

But after the judge warned him that he had to answer the questions, he admitted the party suspended him after a complaint from Joanne McKenna, and he resigned.

Manser said he was "completely exonerated" by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Joanne McKenna, Thomas McKenna, 40, and Joanne's then boyfriend Michael Collins, 25, deny forcing their way into Manser's flat on December 7 last year, detaining him against his will, assaulting him to his severe injury and robbing him of his bank card. Joanne McKenna also denies using the card. The trial continues.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Conservative Councillor charged with sex assaults

Ben Redsell
Ben Redsell
A SUFFOLK county councillor has been charged with a string of sex assaults.

Suffolk police said today that Ben Redsell, a county, district and town councillor for Woodbridge, will appear in court in Ipswich on December 3.

He has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, two of indecent assault, three counts of possession of indecent images of children, seven counts of making indecent images of children and four counts of theft.

Redsell, 28, of Melton Meadow Road, Melton, has been charged with one count of sexual assault by penetration, one of sexual assault by touching and two historic offences of indecent assault on a female under 16 years, plus the indecent image and theft charges.

Redsell is also deputy mayor of Woodbridge.

UPDATE 1 Jul 08

A SUFFOLK county councillor's career has been left in tatters after he pleaded guilty to a sex assault and a string of child pornography offences - despite previously maintaining his innocence.

Ben Redsell, 28, of Melton, near Woodbridge, admitted sexual assaulting a 19-year-old woman, seven counts of making indecent pictures of children and three counts of possessing indecent pictures of children.

The town, district and county councillor for Woodbridge had previously pleaded not guilty to the offences and in November said: “I maintain my innocence and I will be fighting all these charges.”

But standing in the dock at Norwich Crown Court yesterday,Redsell pleaded guilty to each of the 11 counts read out to him.

He admitted sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, at her home on August 24 last year following a night out at The Hippodrome in Colchester.

Following his arrest, police searched Redsell's home in Melton Meadow Road, where he lives with his mother.

Officers found indecent images of children on his computer and yesterdayhe pleaded guilty to seven counts of making indecent pictures of children dating from January 1, 2000, to August 26, 2007.

He also pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing indecent images of children, which police found in his bedroom, for the same period.

Judge Simon Barham told Redsell, who was elected as a Conservative county councillor, that he would be sentenced on August 1 - the day after his 29th birthday - and ordered him to sign the sex offenders' register.

Judge Barham added: “Do not assume that because you are on bail now you will not get a custodial sentence later.”

Before attending court yesterdayRedsell resigned from his positions at Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council and Woodbridge Town Council.

In a letter to the district council, Redsell said: “It has been an honour to serve the people of Woodbridge as their councillor for the last year and I am very sorry to be leaving in this way.”

Speaking after the case, Les Binns, the mayor of Woodbridge, said: “I think it is a sad event and very unfortunate. Some people in the town are feeling let down and the council itself feels let down. He was a lad with some promise which he has given up. Until today people were asking what was happening to him and said that they missed him because he did a lot of good work for the town. But I am sure that now he has pleaded guilty there may well be a different attitude. People are all shocked and dismayed.”

Redsell, a former pupil of Farlingaye High School and Woodbridge School, was elected to Suffolk County Council at a by-election in 2004, becoming the youngest member of the authority.

He was elected to the district council in May last year, as the councillor for Woodbridge Riverside ward.

He held numerous positions at all three tiers of local government, including membership of Suffolk Police Authority. He was also the Conservative agent in Ipswich before the 2005 General Election.

Redsell resigned from the Conservative Party in November after he was charged with the offences to “save them any further embarrassment” but continued to act as an independent councillor.

Suffolk police's Detective Inspector Steve Clabburn said: “These are serious offences and we are pleased he has pleaded guilty, which has spared the victim the ordeal of having to face him in court.

“The guilty plea was made in light of the evidence gathered by officers and we will await the sentencing.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman would only comment by confirming that Redsell resigned from the council at 2pm yesterday.

There will now be two by-elections to fill his seat for the county council and district council, although it is not yet known when these will take place.

Redsell declined to comment yesterday.


Lib Dems remove whip from accused councillor

A LIBERAL Democrat councillor who is accused of assaulting his wife has had the party whip withdrawn.

Imran Abrahim, member for Forest ward since last May, will not undertake in any public duties on behalf of the party.

The 31-year-old was arrested at his home in Knotts Green Road, Leyton, on Sunday and later charged with common assault.

He pleaded not guilty during a hearing at Waltham Forest Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

The community vice chair of the finance overview and scrutiny committee will stand trial on January 28 at the same court before a district judge.

Another 31-year-old arrested in connection with the incident has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

5:48pm Thursday 22nd November 2007


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Conservative - Councillor in expenses inquiry

A DISGRACED councillor resigned yesterday after continuing to claim thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money despite not attending a meeting for over six months.

Cllr Steven Woolfe quit Conwy County Council after claiming an estimated £20,000 in allowances, despite not attending council since March.

Cllr Woolfe, a Conservative councillor for Colwyn Bay’s Rhiw ward, was last spotted at the community safety meeting on March 23. Last year he claimed over £13,000 of his allowance, and has continued to claim in the six and a half months since his last appearance at Bodlondeb.

But the 39-year-old sensationally quit yesterday after pressure from within the Tory camp. Conwy County Council was awaiting a written response to inquiries into his situation and said it would now carry out an investigation.

A spokeswoman commented: “By law, if a councillor doesn’t attend a relevant council meeting within a six-month period their seat is vacated and an election called to fill the vacancy.

“We are investigating these provisions, but no conclusion has been reached yet. The position is likely to be clarified early next week.”

Local Conservative leader Cllr Keith Toy admitted Cllr Woolfe had continued to claim his allowances, adding: “It’s not good enough and I think he’s let the people of Colwyn Bay down.”

The Manchester-born councillor won a by-election in March 2006 and pledged to help transform the Bay, which he claimed was perceived as dirty and unsafe.

Cllr Woolfe is a member of the council’s audit committee as well as the environmental and community wellbeing scrutiny committees.

Fellow Colwyn Bay member Bob Squire was furious that much needed funds had lined Cllr Woolfe’s pockets while other projects went without.

The money could have been used in the community, so much is required in that ward, there are lots of worthy causes,” he said. “There are an awful lot of problems and the money could be better spent.

The Weekly News was unable to contact Cllr Woolfe this week, but would welcome contact from him.


Labour - Benefit Fraud

County councillor Olive McIntosh-Stedman
County councillor Olive McIntosh-Stedman

A county councillor who failed to declare her monthly allowance from the council claimed more than £3,000 in council tax benefit to which she was not entitled, a court heard.

Olive McIntosh-Stedman, 64, of Williamson Way, Rose Hill, Oxford, is on trial at Oxford Crown Court charged with two counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefit. She denies the charges.

The jury heard that McIntosh-Stedman, who represents Littlemore and Cowley, received about £12 per week in council tax benefit between 2002 and 2007.

Prosecutor Hugh Williams told the jury she was awarded the benefit after filling in a claim form in May 2002.

The retired nurse was asked to give details of any regular income, but did not declare the monthly members' allowance of about £500 she received as a councillor, he said.

Oxford City Council launched an investigation last year and once the monthly council allowance had been taken into account, she was found to have received £3,305 too much in benefit.

When interviewed, she said she had forgotten to fill the form in properly and had not checked it.

Mr Williams said the Crown disputed this explanation, adding: "Mrs McIntosh-Stedman failed to complete crucial financial information when applying for a benefit that would allow her to pay no or almost no council tax.

"This is a positive action, we say. We suggest that she was aware of what she was missing out and this awareness, we suggest, meant that she would have realised what the implications were of what she was doing.

"This, we say, is dishonest."

The jury also heard from Glenn Watson, the county council's democratic support manager.

He said McIntosh-Stedman, who was elected to the council in 1997, had repeatedly tried to claim expenses for attending political group meetings, despite being told she could not.

Rachel Drake, defending McIntosh-Stedman, asked Mr Watson if it was possible she had misunderstood the advice he had given her. He said he could not give an opinion.

The case continues.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Conservative Mayor - Pornography

David Lee
David Lee
COUNCILLORS will attend an extraordinary meeting this week following the resignation of Chelmsford's mayor David Lee amid allegations that illegal pornography from the internet was downloaded onto his computer.

The borough council members will choose and appoint a new mayor and deputy to serve for the remainder of the civic year, which runs until May.

The East Anglian Daily Times understands that the mayor's role will be taken by Conservative councillor Nicolette Chambers, although this has not been formally announced.

Ms Chambers is currently deputy mayor and a councillor for the Chelmsford Rural West ward.

Her replacement as deputy mayor will also take place at the meeting.

Fellow Tory Mr Lee resigned on November 9 following claims illegal pornography had been downloaded onto his council laptop.

The father-of-three, who has not been arrested, also resigned as a councillor for the Moulsham and Central Ward.

He has been told he will not be able to continue his role as vice-governor of the Boswells School in Chelmsford until a police investigation into the allegations against him is completed.

Mr Lee's laptop was seized from his home earlier this month and specialists from Essex Police's high-tech crime unit are analysing it.

The investigation is expected to take months rather than weeks as police try and work out when any images were viewed and how many people had access to the computer.

Chelmsford Borough Council and 44-year-old Mr Lee, who worked in the banking and IT sectors, issued a joint statement at the time confirming his resignation.

It said: “This follows an ongoing police investigation in relation to alleged inappropriate use of computer equipment belonging to Chelmsford Borough Council.

“Full co-operation is being given to the police by the mayor and the council in an investigation, which is likely to last several months.”

Essex Police confirmed there had been an allegation from the council that one of its computers had been used to access “sexually explicit images”.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Liberal Benefit fraud councillor 'should quit now'

A COUNCILLOR who committed benefit fraud has been told to quit by opposition politicians after being given a suspended jail sentence.

Coun Arif Waghat, who represents Shear Brow ward, fraudulently claimed council tax benefit and income support of more than £3,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council.

After being handed an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, he said he would spend a week speaking to his constituents before deciding whether to stand down.

But Labour leader Kate Hollern called for Waghat to step down now, saying the fact that he had worked as a welfare rights advisor for the council for nine years until he was made redundant in 2003 made his offences even worse.

And Labour councillor Mike Johnson, who lost his seat to Waghat in 2006, said his rival should "do the honourable thing" and resign.

Waghat received the support of council leader Colin Rigby, who said he was a "good ward councillor who had made a mistake and apologised".

Waghat had already resigned from the Liberal Democrat party - he had been the group's deputy leader on the council - after pleading guilty to the offence.

But he continues to support the ruling coalition as an independent.

If Waghat had received a prison sentence of three months or more he would have been disqualified from standing as a councillor under the council's Code of Conduct.

A by-election - which could leave the balance of power in the borough hanging by a thread - would be triggered if Waghat, who was elected in May 2006, resigned.

If Labour won his seat they would have 32 seats to the coalition's 32 - meaning the mayor, currently Tory Maureen McGarvey, would keep the coalition in power with her casting vote.

Coun Hollern said: "The acid test should always be how does this appear to the man in the street. If it's okay for him to commit benefit fraud, how does that appear to everyone else?"

Coun Johnson, who was elected in Highercroft ward the following year, said: "I was a councillor in Shear Brow for 16 years, so when I found out he was being charged it was a bit of a shock."

Labour councillor Dave Harling said: "Enough is enough. The public demand high standards, and he has failed."

But Coun Rigby backed Waghat and said: "There has been a good deal of political capital made over this.

"The guy made a mistake, he has repaid the money and made an apology.

"I have no problem with Arif at all. He is a good ward councillor."

After the case, Waghat said he was relieved the court case was over.

He said: "It's a relief I can now get on with my job, and this is tinged with regret that it happened in the first place. I have had this hanging over me for the last year or so.

"I will take advice on my future. Not from my friends and relatives, but from my constituents. I will consult on a daily basis for the next week or so. When I meet people in mosques for daily prayers I will gauge the opinion of people.

"That way I will make a decision based on what my constituents say to me."

Burnley Crown Court was told that Waghat filled out council tax and income support benefit forms which his wife Safia Umerji then signed, But the 50-year-old, of Buncer Lane, Blackburn, failed to tell the authorities when he secured employment as a £14,000-a-year accounts manager for a finance firm called Euroquest.

Waghat admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances for benefits, both committed before he was a councillor. The overpayments came to a combined total of £3,153.

Richard Bennett, defending, said the offences had occurred following a time of particular hardship for his client - his sick mother had died and he had lost his employment with the council.

It was accepted that Waghat had carried out a "significant breach of trust" but he had made strenuous efforts to repay the falsely-acquired benefits, Mr Bennett added.

Judge Norman Wright also ordered Waghat to carry out 150 hours of community service and pay £250 costs.

The court heard that Waghat had recently set up a new firm JLAS Services, which was still in its infancy.


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conservative Councillor - Mayor quits over assault

Mayor of Lichfield, Councillor Mike Fryers, arriving at Tamworth Magistrates' Court

The Mayor of Lichfield Councillor Mike Fryers today resigned his position as the city’s first citizen after being convicted of an assault in a pub.

Councillor Fryers was found guilty yesterday at Tamworth Magistrates Court of assaulting a man.

He had denied taking part in the confrontation at the King’s Head pub in the early hours of July 14 but at his trial yesterday, magistrates were told Fryers leapt from his seat and lunged at Peter Cole following a dispute over lewd remarks allegedly made towards a woman.

The Conservative councillor for the Chadsmead ward grabbed Mr Cole by the throat and pushed him against the wall. Councillor Tony Thompson, leader of the city council, issued a statement this morning saying Fryers had tendered his resignation as mayor.

He has not resigned as councillor. Councillor Thomp- son said: “A special Council Meeting will follow in due course to elect a new Mayor.”

He added: “Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have behaved with great dignity during this difficult and overlong period. I hope the council will now be able to pursue the positive aspects of serving the Lichfield community.”

Kings Head bar assistant Steven Hughes told magistrates he had to put his arms around Fryers, who appeared “unsteady” on his feet, to pull him away from the 54-year-old victim.

The Mayor said he had consumed up to three pints of lager and a couple of glasses of wine but did not feel drunk. Magistrates decided he was guilty of common assault and he was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £455 court costs and £75 compensation.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Labour Councillor convicted of Benefit Fraud

Councillor convicted of benefit fraud


A ST Mary’s ward councillor has been convicted of benefit fraud.

Ali Aqeel Salamat (34), of Clifton Avenue, was found guilty at Oldham Magistrates’ Court of failing to notify the council that he worked as a taxi-driver while claiming £295.76 in benefits from July 1, 2004, to January 17, 2005.

Salamat’s case was investigated after he completed a housing and council tax benefit claim form in which he declared that he and his wife, Naveen Akhtar, received working and child-tax credits.

He also said that he earned a gross pay of £91.30 for working 20 hours a week as a shop-floor worker but did not state any other earned income.

The trial heard that on October 10, 2005, Salamat completed another form in which he said he did not work but received £100 every two weeks for taxi rent from June 2, 2005. His case was passed to the council’s benefit fraud unit when it was found he had not declared income received from his position as a Labour councillor.

An investigation found that Salamat held a taxi-driver’s licence from March, 1997, to June, 2005.

During an interview under caution, the father-of-three said he had worked only three or four days as a taxi-driver in December, 2004, when his wife became ill. He also said he was involved in a crash in Lord Street, Oldham, on January 17, 2005.

In two of his interviews Salamat denied driving as a taxi-driver on the day of the crash, but in a police accident police report he said: “I am currently employed as a taxi-driver around the Oldham area and have been now eight months.”

He read and signed the report, written by PC Gareth Greaves, but later claimed that he meant he had worked for eight weeks, not months.

Salamat later claimed that he only worked as a taxi-driver for United Cars for two weeks of Christmas. After his wife became ill, he only used the vehicle for personal use.

Salamat said he believed the allegations against him were all politically motivated.

Greg Kemp, defending, said in reference to Salamat’s signed statement: “You have a piece of paper before you that says Salamat worked for eight months — that can either be correct or incorrect.

“It could have been a mistake as everyone makes mistake.

“My client is a man of good character.

He is being prosecuted on the basis that he is a councillor — that’s the whole policy.

“He is being called a liar, but people can get things wrong.

“He is a good man and his character is being attacked. If you are going to criticise him for getting things wrong he’s not the only one.”

District Judge Duncan Birrel said: “I am satisfied that Salamat did say he worked for eight months in the police statement, so it seems to me that the prosecution has made its case.”

Salamat was ordered to pay a £500 fine, £1,000 costs and £295.76 compensation to Oldham Council



Guilty councillor keeps job

AN Oldham councillor who was found guilty of fraud has kept his job. Labour's Coun Ali Aqeel Salamat was convicted this week of falsely claiming council tax benefits.

The town's magistrates' court heard he failed to notify the council that he worked as a taxi driver while picking up benefits.

But despite the conviction, Salamat, 34, remains in his post on the St Mary's ward. His position means he also acts as a `community champion' and paid a special allowance making him the most senior councillor in the ward.

His escape has sparked fury.

Lib Dem leader Coun Howard Sykes said he could not understand why Salamat had not been sacked.

"There is a whole issue of confidence and integrity here," he said. "I can tell you one thing if he was with the Lib Dems he wouldn't be in my council."

The offences took place between July 2004 and January 2005 when Salamat was with the Lib Dems. They suspended him and reported him to the Standards Board for England but an enquiry yielded insufficient evidence.

Salamat then became an independent candidate. He was elected in May but subsequently switched his allegiance to the Labour party. Labour needed one more seat for an overall majority and the move effectively put his new party in control at the local elections in May.


Coun Sykes described the switch as Labour's `thinly disguised, grubby, distasteful and desperate manoeuvre to keep control of the council'.

At Oldham magistrates' court on Tuesday Salamat was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £500 in costs and £295 back to the council.

He said he had made a `mistake', questioned why he should have to appear in court and added that he was looking forward to carrying on in his post.

"My wife had been ill at this time and I was looking after my three children," he said. "I accept that I may not have given `prompt notification of a change to my circumstances' which affected my entitlement to council tax benefit.

"I cannot understand why they had to take me to court at considerable expense to the council tax payer when I had offered to pay back any overpayment. I hope I can now put this behind me and concentrate on my work for the local community."

A spokesman for the Standards Board for England said they could not investigate as they had not received a further complaint. Oldham Labour party were unavailable for comment.

A councillor can remain in their position if convicted as long as their sentence is less than three months imprisonment.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Conservative candidate Haroon Rashid

A Conservative parliamentary candidate and two former Tory councillors will appear in court this week in connection with a suspected vote-rigging conspiracy that was uncovered by The Times.

They are among seven men accused of electoral fraud following a lengthy police investigation into alleged malpractice in Bradford, mostly relating to the use of postal ballots.

The criminal inquiry was prompted by an article in The Times that exposed postal voting irregularities in the Bradford West constituency during the 2005 general election campaign.

Those charged include Haroon Rashid, 37, from Buckinghamshire, who stood as the unsuccessful Tory candidate in Bradford West.

Mr Rashid has been a member of the Conservative Party for more than 15 years and an active campaigner for increased Asian representation.

In the run-up to the 2005 poll he was photographed with then Tory leader Michael Howard and other leading Conservatives, including Baroness Thatcher.

Also due to appear before Bradford magistrates on Wednesday are two former Conservative councillors in the city, Jamshed Khan, 53, and Reis Khan, 38.

Both lost the party whip when they were arrested during the police inquiry.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Top Labour Councillor left dog to die in agony

Senior city councillor Paul Shotton has been convicted of animal cruelty after leaving his family's 13-year-old pet labrador to die while he went on holiday with his wife.

The 47-year-old, city council portfolio holder for public safety, pictured, was convicted alongside his wife Annette, aged 45, of causing unnecessary suffering to Baron, between June 24 and July 15 last year.

Sentencing the couple, deputy district judge John Maxwell told them: "You two have committed a despicable crime.

"You left an old family friend in your yard to die while you went on holiday - no doubt hoping it would all be over by the time you got back."

Shotton's 25-year-old son Gavin, of Alma Street, Fenton, had earlier been cleared of the same charge after his case was thrown out.

North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court had heard that on July 15, RSPCA inspector Julie Lyons had been called to the Shottons' home at Smithpool Road, in Fenton, at about 9.45pm.

The house was empty as the Shottons had gone on holiday earlier that day leaving their son to look after Baron.

Ms Lyons looked over a neighbour's fence and saw Baron lying on his side in the garden.

The court heard how she found the underside of Baron soaked in urine and that he was bony.

He also had open sores on his elbow and mouth and appeared to be dehydrated.

Paul Shotton told the court that Baron had not been ill when the family had left for their three-week holiday.

When shown photographs of the dog taken two days later at Willow Veterinary Clinic in Endon, and The Croft Veterinary Clinic in Newcastle, he said: "He did not look like that when we left him.

"I didn't see any sores or urine scalding on his body."

Judge Maxwell yesterday gave the Shottons two-year conditional discharges. They are banned from keeping dogs for the same period, and were told to pay the RSPCA £3,000 costs.

The judge said: "I am satisfied that dog was obviously ill and in distress at the time the defendants went on their holiday.

"They just simply left that dog to suffer.

"In my judgement they have reasonably omitted to take any remedial steps by way of treatment, keeping it clean or having it euthanised."

Shotton and his wife are appealing against their conviction.

After the case, he said: "I am absolutely appalled at the verdict.

"We will automatically be appealing against this decision and will simultaneously be asking for a judicial review concerning the powers of the RSPCA."

Should Paul Shotton continue as a councillor with a criminal record?


Conservative Porn councillor's five-year ban

Kenneth Leadbeater
Kenneth Leadbeater was a council leader when he accessed child porn
A former council leader who downloaded indecent images of children from the internet has been banned from public office for five years.

Kenneth Leadbeater, of South Darenth, Kent, was given a three-year community rehabilitation order in September 2006 after admitting 14 offences.

Now the Standards Board for England has said he will be unable to stand for any council elections until November 2012.

Leadbeater resigned as Dartford council leader after police questioned him.

He pleaded guilty in June 2006 to 14 counts of making indecent images of children, immediately stepping down as a Conservative councillor for Heath ward in Dartford.

The five-year ban reflects the severity of Mr Leadbeater's behaviour
Sir Anthony Holland

The Standards Board for England is responsible for "promoting high ethical standards and investigating allegations that members' behaviour may have fallen short of the required standards".

Following an investigation into Leadbeater's conviction, it decided he had "brought his office and authority into disrepute".

The Standards Board said that even though the child porn images were accessed outside of work and at his home, the fact he had used a council-owned computer "brought his conduct out of his private capacity".

Chairman Sir Anthony Holland said: "The five-year ban reflects the severity of Mr Leadbeater's behaviour.

"The public elect council members to positions of trust, and when that trust is abused they expect councillors to be brought to account."

Police found 320 indecent images of boys on the computer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Councillor ‘cheated his way back into seat’

A leading Asian councillor cheated his way back on to Britain’s biggest local council by spreading untrue election-day rumours that an opponent had been arrested for fraud, a court was told yesterday.

Muhammad Afzal, who was previously ousted from Birmingham council because of a vote-rigging scandal, bucked the trend in the local elections held in May to snatch a seat for Labour as fellow candidates were culled across the city.

Evidence of corruption at the highest levels of the West Midlands Region of the Labour Party will be produced as part of a petition requesting that the poll result should be quashed, the hearing was told.

Election courts have been rare since the “rotten boroughs” in the early days of universal male suffrage in the 19th century. But the second such tribunal in three years to be convened in Birmingham met yesterday in a crowded courtroom under a new commissioner, Timothy Straker, QC.

Mr Afzal won his seat in inner-city Aston ward with 666 votes more than his nearest rival, a Respect councillor. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Saeed Aehmed, who came a close third, is bringing the petition and is demanding that the result should be overturned.

The legitimacy of any democracy relies entirely on the open and fair operation of the electoral process,” Graham Brodie, for Mr Aehmed, said yesterday. “Mr Afzal’s campaign was conducted illegally. It involved widespread misinformation concerning the personal character and conduct of a rival candidate,” he added.

False statements of facts about rivals are illegal under the Representation of the People Act.

Mr Afzal, a former chairman of the National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors and a Birmingham councillor since 1982, had his reelection to the council in 2004 overturned because of widespread corruption.

Richard Mawrey, QC, then election commissioner, had accused Labour of organising city-wide postal vote fraud “that would disgrace a banana republic” to win the election, in spite of Muslim anger over the invasion of Iraq. Mr Afzal was later cleared by the Court of Appeal of personal responsibility for corrupt and illegal practices.

Mr Brodie said that on this year’s election day,Mr Afzal’s supporters told voters that the Lib Dem candidate had been arrested for fraud. Loudspeakers on cars in Aston blared out the rumour in Urdu and Bengali.

Kenneth Jeffers, a resident, said that he had felt “shocked, disappointed and let down” when he read in a Labour newsletter that Mr Aehmed had been suspected of disability grant fraud.

Mr Brodie said: “None of it was true. [Mr Aehmed] has never been arrested for fraud of any sort, nor has he ever been involved with any fraud concerning disability grants.”

Noman Kamal, a Lib Dem canvasser, told the court that he had heard Labour supporters spreading the lies to voters at a polling station.

Gavin Millar, QC, for Mr Afzal, accused Mr Kamal, whose family comes from the same village in Pakistan as Mr Aehmed’s, of telling untruths.

Mr Afzal, who is regarded as the most powerful man in Birmingham Asian politics, sits on the council’s overview and scrutiny committee. His victory this May came in spite of a sharp swing against Labour in the city when the party was overtaken as Birmingham’s largest by the Conservatives for the first time in 24 years.

The hearing continues.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Labour 'paid drug addicts to rig local votes'

Labour paid drug addicts to vote up to 25 times to rig a tightly fought election, a BBC investigation has alleged.

Respect party representative Abdul Aziz claims that Labour spent £10,000 to gain a 666-vote majority and oust him from the ward of Aston in Birmingham.

A community leader told Newsnight that he had been offered £20 for every postal vote he rigged and a drug addict claimed he was paid £5 for every vote he cast - netting himself £125.

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Muhammed Afzal yesterday faced an election court charged with corruption

Muhammed Afzal, the Labour candidate who won the ward in this year's council elections, yesterday faced an election court charged with corruption following allegations he libelled his Liberal Democrat opponent.

Mr Aziz said: 'If the electorate does vote you out, that's fine fairly and squarely but I felt I was cheated out of my seat this was confirmed subsequently when I overheard one of the officials of the Labour party saying that they'd actually paid about £10,000 for votes in this area in the 2007 election. That was just despicable.'

A community leader, who did not wish to be named, said he was approached by a Labour activist just before the election.

'He says I'll give you £20 per postal vote – I thought this guy was taking the Mick – He had a brown envelope next to him – he pulled out a wad of cash, he pulled out four £50 notes and said here's £200 – I didn't take the money but he kept phoning me,' he said.

'He was asking me for postal votes. He wanted me to leave them unsealed. You don't think someone's going to come and ask you to rig votes and stuff like that.'

It comes after a judge found six Labour councillors guilty of electoral fraud during 2004's council election in two Birmingham wards - one of which was Aston - that he said the episode would "disgrace a banana republic''.

Richard Mawrey, QC, sitting as a High Court judge two years ago, said the councillors were responsible for a "massive, systematic and organised fraud'' that was supported by the local Labour Party.