Friday, July 25, 2008

Conservative councillor guilty of rigging election votes

ANOTHER former Peterborough city councillor stood in disgrace yesterday after being found guilty of cheating his way to election victory by forging votes.
Ex-Conservative Abdul Razaq is facing the almost certain prospect of jail after a jury convicted him of setting up a vote-rigging "production line" to guarantee success in the 2004 council elections.

The 52-year-old Peterborough Regional College lecturer becomes the fifth person, and the second former councillor, to be convicted of electoral fraud for interfering with votes in the city's Central ward.

Earlier this year, Mohammed Choudhary, who became Peterborough's first Asian mayor in 1997, was jailed for nine months after he was found guilty of forgery.

Jurors have yet to reach a verdict on Razaq's co-defendant and ex-mayor of Peterborough Raja Akhtar, who denies similar charges.

Razaq's crimes were uncovered after voters in the Central ward complained they had been turned away from polls in June 2004 because their ballots had already been cast by post.

A huge police operation, which was to last four years and cost an estimated £1 million, found the father-of-four's handwriting on 39 applications for postal and proxy votes.

Prosecutors at King's Lynn Crown Court said Razaq had systematically hijacked voters' poll cards.

Jurors were told he filled in the cards so that postal votes would be sent not to the electors themselves, but to the addresses of his own friends and relatives, setting up a fraudulent "production line" to sway the ballot in his favour.

Among his victims were husband and wife Jaswinder Kaur and Gopal Singh, of Russell Street, Peterborough, who denied giving Razaq the authority to fill in their poll cards.

The court also heard from couples Sadhia Yaqub and Parvaiz Akhtar, and Sameem and Nadeem Dar, all of Gladstone Street, who said they had never heard of the addresses where their ballot papers were sent.

Razaq never denied it was his handwriting on the poll cards, but his defence counsel insisted he was merely trying to help people get involved with the electoral process.

Mohammed Latif, defending, said: "The poll cards were brought back to (Razaq) by canvassers or, in other cases, he saw the voters himself.

"He filled in the addresses and gave (the cards) back to the canvassers to be signed by the voters. If that is all that happened, he has done nothing wrong; there is no forgery."

The jury, however, disagreed and found Razaq guilty on six out of eight counts of forgery after nearly 20 hours of deliberation over four days.

Four of the convictions were unanimous verdicts while the remaining two were by majorities of 10 to two. He was cleared of two further forgery charges.

Razaq, of Newark Avenue, Peterborough, showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were read out.

Judge Alasdair Darroch told him he would almost certainly be sent to prison when he returned to court for sentencing at a later date.

He said: "I have to give you this very clear warning: these sorts of offences almost always result in a custodial sentence."



Conservative - Gay Sex in Public Toilet

A Conservative councillor in Harrow has appeared in court charged with engaging in sexual activity in a public lavatory.

Robert Benson did not enter a plea at Harrow Magistrates' Court last week.

He has been suspended from the party but remains a councillor.

Council leader David Ashton told the Harrow Observer:

"Firstly, this is a matter for the courts. Secondly, as Conservative group leader, I have suspended Councillor Benson from the group.

"If somebody is charged with a criminal offence, they are suspended as part of our standard procedure."

Mr Benson, 41, is accused of giving oral sex to another man in a public toilet in south Harrow on June 25th.

He was arrested and bailed until July 8th, when he was charged.

A 56-year-old from Essex man was issued with a caution.

Mr Benson's case will be heard on 30th July at Wimbledon Magistrates Court.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Conservative Councillor - Harassment

The Tory Party's Parliamentary candidate for Watford, who quit following his arrest by officers probing a three-year hate campaign, has now been told he should stand down as a councillor.

Yesterday, the Watford Observer exclusively revealed Ian Oakley had been arrested and then bailed by police investigating the harassment of several Liberal Democrat councillors in the town.

Mr Oakley was arrested on Friday and a Conservative spokesman last night confirmed he had stood down as the party’s parliamentary candidate for Watford.

Now there have been calls for Mr Oakley to stand down as a councillor in Northwood.

The police investigation, nicknamed Operation Tuition, has been coordinated by Hertfordshire Constabulary's major crime task force.

The allegations relate to the sustained harassment of Liberal Democrats in the town, some of whom have suffered vandalism to their personal property and received malicious phone calls.

Several councillors have had abuse scratched into their cars and their tyres slashed, while others have had vile graffiti daubed close to their home.

Some councillors have even had pornography sent to their houses.

Nascot councillor Mark Watkin has also been the victim of a vicious poison pen letter campaign that made unfounded sexual allegations about him.

Police yesterday confirmed a 31-year-old man had been arrested in relation to the incident.

Mr Oakley has not been charged and is now on police bail pending further enquiries.

Calls for Mr Oakley to resign his Northwood seat have been led by Councillor Mike Cox, leader of Hillingdon Council's Lib Dems.

He said: "If he's taken the decision to resign from Watford then he should certainly resign from Hillingdon where he has far more responsibility for direct relations with the public."


Update 14/10/08

The Conservative party was urged yesterday to conduct an inquiry into a hate campaign carried out by one of its former parliamentary candidates against his Liberal Democrat opponents.

Ian Oakley, 31, who was selected in the Labour-held seat of Watford in 2006, was sentenced yesterday to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

St Albans magistrates said his "vile and persistent" campaign, including harassment and criminal damage aimed at dozens of Lib Dem supporters and councillors, was an attempt "to pervert the democratic process". Calling for the inquiry, his principal target, Sal Brinton, the Lib Dem candidate for Watford, said the Tories locally and nationally have never apologised nor responded in any way since Oakley pleaded guilty in August.

Full Story and Source

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lib Dem - Drink driving - Again

Greasy and oily and still sucking in some people

A councillor has been thrown out of his party after being caught drink driving while almost three times over the legal limit.

Hugh O’Hanlon, 56, was suspended by Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill as soon as he informed the Liberal Democrat leader about his arrest.

O’Hanlon, who was returned to his Tudor ward seat in this year’s May elections, pleaded guilty to drink driving and driving without insurance at Watford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

He has been banned from driving and faces a community order as well as a hefty fine.

Despite allegations he performed council duties while drunk, O’Hanlon – who receives an annual allowance of £7,209 from Watford Borough Council – said he will not resign from his seat.

He said: “I won’t be resigning under any circumstances.

“My council work is exceptional. I have had letters about how good a councillor I am, that’s excellent.

“I have got to put my hands up in the air and say I am extremely sorry.

“I have been an idiot. It’s my fault. I cannot do anything else, but there were a lot of reasons which brought that into line.”

Watford magistrates heard O’Hanlon was stopped by police on his driveway on Thursday, June 19, having driven his wife’s blue Fiat Punto the few hundred yards from the Tudor Arms.

Lynette Woodrow, prosecuting, told the court: “He got out of the driver’s door and was seen to put something in his mouth.

“When questioned, he said it was a mint and told the officers they would now have to wait 20 minutes to breathalyse him.

“He appeared drunk and was being argumentative.”

When he was arrested at 6.35pm, O’Hanlon asked: “Who called you?”

He was taken to Watford Police Station, where he gave a alcohol reading of 104. The legal limit is 35.

It is not the first time O’Hanlon, a governor of Parkgate Junior Infants School, has been caught drink driving. In 1999 he was banned for a year for the same offence.

Tony Irving, defending, said in mitigation O’Hanlon had taken the “foolish” decision to drive the short distance home because he cannot walk more than 200 yards since suffering a stroke in November.

He said his client suffered from depression as a result of the condition but his arrest had brought home his need for help, which was being dealt with by O’Hanlon’s GP.

When it came to driving without insurance, the court heard O’Hanlon thought he was covered, but later discovered the policy was only for his wife and daughter.

O’Hanlon’s alleged drunken behaviour was first brought to the council’s attention last year when he was reported to have overturned a table in a fit of rage at the Tudor Arms.

He was barred from the pub following the incident but then allowed back after it was said to be a case of “mistaken identity”.

Mayor Thornhill said that was the one and only time the council has received any complaint about the “well-liked” councillor.

She said: “We went round to speak to the landlady but by then it had been sorted out and no further action was taken.

“We have never had a single formal complaint about him, but after the pub incident I made it quite clear that any more of that sort of stuff and people would start to make assumptions.”

The Mayor, who was unaware of O’Hanlon’s previous spent drink driving conviction, said there was no excuse for his crime.

She added: “The only good thing to come out of all this is that he is facing the fact he is a victim of alcohol abuse and is doing something about it.”

Asked if there is any way back for him into the party, she said: “The most important thing is for him to get on with being a good councillor, it’s up to Hugh.

“The ball’s in his court.”

O’Hanlon could carry on representing the Tudor ward as an independent.

Indeed the council’s website has already changed his personal profile and now lists him as an independent.

However, the Liberal Democrat hierarchy has been criticised for allowing O’Hanlon to stand for re-election in May.

Amanda Grimston, a Conservative councillor for the Leggatts ward, said she complained the Tudor councillor had arrived “drunk” and late for a meeting last year – accusations O’Hanlon denies.

Councillor Grimston said: “I think what he has done is an utter disgrace. I do not care if you are Labour or Conservative or a Liberal Democrat.

“It is not the behaviour of a local councillor. I feel he should be struck off.”

Leader of the Conservative group, Andrew Mortimer, said it was obvious to all that O’Hanlon needed help.

He said: “He has clearly fought with the problem for some time and I am very sorry that it has caught up with him. Of all the people I know in the council it was clear he had a problem.”

However, Mr O’Hanlon described allegations of being drunk in a council meeting as “absolute nonsense”.

He said: “There’s not one person in that town hall that’s seen me drunk.

“I do know what she [Councillor Grimston] is talking about. It’s where I had been for a beer before a meeting and that's it, end of story.

“As far as being drunk, no way. Not in a million years.”

As well as a minimum 12-month ban, magistrates must decide what severity of fine to impose on O’Hanlon.

Hanlon, who can also expect a medium length community order, will be sentenced on Tuesday, August 5.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

UKIP MEP - Fraud

AN EAST of England Euro MP last night said he had “nothing to hide” after it emerged a member of his own party had complained to police about alleged “financial irregularities”.

Jeffrey Titford, a former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), was reported to Essex Police after allegations were made against him and his political advisor, Stuart Gulleford.

The pair are now under investigation by police, but they and UKIP have both dismissed the allegations.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Titford and himself, Mr Gulleford said: “The police are more than welcome to talk to us anytime they like. We have got nothing to hide. The door is open.”

Last month, fellow Euro MP Tom Wise, who was voted in as a UKIP MEP for the East of England, but is now an Independent, was arrested by Bedfordshire Police on suspicion of obtaining money by deception. He has been released on police bail pending an investigation.

The investigation into Mr Titford and Mr Gulleford was triggered by John West, chairman of UKIP in Ipswich and East Suffolk, who recently failed in a bid to stand as a Euro MP.

Mr West, also a UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate for Ipswich North and Suffolk Central, told the EADT he contacted police over the alleged “financial irregularities” after someone came to him with allegations of illegal activities.

He said he felt obliged to report the allegations which involved senior members of the UKIP party.

A spokesman for Essex police said: “We can confirm we have received a complaint from Mr West and it is under investigation.”

But the UKIP party stood by their members denying there was anything in the allegations.

A spokesman said: “We have received these allegations at senior level some time ago. They were investigated and found to be completely without foundation and we wish to make no further comment on that.

“Jeffery Titford and Stuart Gulleford are both long serving members of good character.”

A retired Frinton funeral director, Mr Titford was born in West Mersea,and was a local councillor in the Clacton area in the 1970s.

He became involved with UKIP in late 1997. He was elected an MEP in June 1999 and was re-elected in June 2004. He successfully stood for the Party leadership in March 2000, a position he held until October 2002.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tory councillor admits rape

A Tory politician has lost his job and could be kicked out of the party after admitting five sex offences involving three girls, one of them being a charge of rape.

Stephen Mullins, 52, formerly of Links Avenue, Hellesdon, has been a member of Norwich North Conservative Association (NNCA) for about two years and a Hellesdon parish councillor for about the same time.

Mullins, who worked as head chef in the kitchen of the Bull pub in Reepham Road, Hellesdon for 17 years until April this year, appeared at Norwich Crown Court.

He admitted two offences of indecent assault against one girl under 14, between August 22, 1999 and August 21, 2000, and between August 22, 2000 and August 21, 2002. He also admitted rape involving the same girl between August 22, 1999 and August 21, 2002.

He also admitted sexual assault by penetration on April 3, 2008 on another girl aged 14 and assault by penetration on April 14, 2008 on another young girl.

He was remanded in custody to await a pre-sentence report and is due to be sentenced at Norwich Crown Court on September 1.

Jonathan Seeley, prosecuting, said that counts one and two were sample counts, while the rest were specific allegations.

Commenting after the case, Shelagh Gurney, chairman of the NNCA, said: “In view of his admission of guilt and the severity of the offences, I'm taking legal action with a view to releasing him from party membership.”

Patrick Cutter, landlord at the Bull pub, said: “Obviously I don't condone what he has done, and as a business we want to draw a line under it. He won't be working for me anymore.”

Broadland district councillor and Hellesdon parish councillor Tony Adams was at court yesterday, and said the council would be looking to replace Mullins on the parish council either by a by-election or by cooption.

Mr Adams said: “I would like to extend my sympathies to his partner and to the girls he abused.

“My understanding is that he will be automatically debarred from continuing to serve as a parish councillor, because he will have already served more than three months in jail, whatever the sentence.”

Mullins is believed to have been living with a partner, but is not understood to have any children.