Have your Volvo destroyed in Broadstairs by hooded thugs wielding baseball bats and as the local paper reports, you may not deserve a 999 visit from the police but if someone alleges you have 'Liked' a Facebook page, you might find yourself in really big trouble. With all the considerable investigative resources of Kent Police and the Police Commissioner, leveled against you.
It’s not every day that the police come knocking at your door, asking to speak with you in connection with an allegation of a serious criminal offence and it’s not every day, that you receive a police caution in your own home, an event which is bound to cause some small concern to your family present.
You may also recall, that the complaint against me, surrounded comments made by anonymous characters on my Thanet Life weblog, I was informed a popular former mayor of Margate on his Facebook page, had challenged her artist’s impression of a Tesco development on Margate seafront, which was then subsequently ‘Liked’ by another councillor, who was also interviewed under police caution.
|The Real Plan|
In every discussion, Kent police, given the questionable level of evidence offered to support their inquiry, were viewed as acting disproportionately; unwilling but diligent agents in the pursuit of a frivolous and possibly malicious complaint, reportedly pressed-upon them by the office of the publicity-hungry Kent Police Commissioner, Ann Barnes.
|Simon Davies LSE|
You may recall from the earlier stories on Thanet Life that two senior police officers had been working on this investigation since the autumn of last year and at great cost to the taxpayer. How much, I can’t tell you, as the police won’t reveal this under the Freedom of Information Act, (FOI) as an individual's complaint is involved. Neither will Thanet council reveal the cost of Ms Oldfield’s own FOI and subject access data requests, seeking any and all relevant communications between councillors.
So, it appears, that after many months of inquiry, Kent Police have concluded, that anonymous comments on my weblog are, as I told them on the day of interview, a matter for civil law and not criminal law. That ‘Liking’ a comment on Facebook, is not a criminal offence and, I assume, that challenging the position and style of an artists’ impression of a giant Tesco, development, placed adjacent to Dreamland, is truly what the former mayor of Margate said it is, at best an exaggeration and at worst a misrepresentation of the facts.
Furthermore and on the absence of any evidence, three councillors of long-standing and good reputation clearly did not, between them, seek to conspire against Ms Oldfield, in a directed and malicious effort to damage her reputation or business as initially suggested by the police. One might argue as a consequence, that she didn't need our help and did rather well on her own.
|Ann Barnes - Kent Police Commissioner|
In a reply to a letter to Sir Roger Gale on my behalf, - see below - she denies any personal involvement in placing pressure on the Chief constable. A copy of an email, received under my own Freedom of Information request, shows that on 15th October, Ann Barnes’ office was clearly involved in encouraging the police to reconsider Ms Oldfield’s complaint.
I know you have recently been in contact with a member of my staff, and wanted to take the chance to update you on the matter relating to your constituent, Cllr Simon Moores.
I am sure you are aware that Police and Crime Commissioners are constrained in law from interfering with Chief Constables’ operational independence. I want to be absolutely clear that in relation to this case, I did not ask or insist that the case be re-opened, or request that the Police interview the councillors involved. For anyone to suggest otherwise is simply untrue.”
I have attempted to request the correspondence from the police side with the police commissioner’s office, (PCO) but this has been denied.
Also, correspondence between Ms Oldfield, other parties and the Police Commissioner, which would allow me to understand how this complaint developed, is also denied but it's clear that something happened in October 2013, as you may see the attachments in the email from Ann Barnes office in the image.
|The Police Commissioner's Office email Sent to Kent Police on Oct 1st|
The first, is how a complaint surrounding the blog of someone writing on local issues under the name of John Hamilton, developed into a more serious allegation of a criminal conspiracy to harass by three prominent local councillors with evidence up to the best standards of a Soviet political show trial?
Why did Ms Oldfield, apparently intent on shutting-down any negative remarks or comment on social media, resort to making a criminal complaint, when in my own case, a simple email, call or polite request would have been sufficient for me to review comments and take action on my own weblog under the civil law and Libel and Defamation Act of 2013? What was her motivation, other than as the council solicitor commented, that ‘A criminal complaint costs nothing and immediately ties you-up, while a civil complaint is expensive and takes time.’
|Political Show Trial 1930's|
Given the level of evidence and having cautioned them as potential suspects, why did the police keep three local councillors waiting for over four months, when a simple interview to assist them with the inquiries, would have been more than sufficient, from the legal advice I have received? The bar for a criminal complaint of this nature is set very high indeed in the courts, I'm told, so why pursue it, other than the fact that there was a political dimension?
Let me be clear. A criminal complaint to the police against a politician of any status is a very serious matter. Using it in pursuit of a personal grievance or political agenda against individuals is deeply worrying. If you happen to be a professional person or an individual enjoying a hitherto good reputation in your community, it can be potentially catastrophic and we have seen this of late with the recent trial of Nigel Evans MP and the ‘Plebgate’ farce.
In regard to Louise Oldfield one informed correspondent writes:
“I am very surprised at her approach to the police. She has sought to involve herself in the Margate High Street shops arena and also to object to Tesco. I understand she adopted a similar role elsewhere before arriving in Margate.
She has busied herself becoming involved in every aspect of life with no real mandate from local residents. I was shocked to hear that you were interviewed in this way. I expect that someone without such a high profile would not have secured police co-operation on such an allegation.”
This is perhaps an example of well-intentioned ‘Localism’ gone crazy. This is supposed to give greater powers to groups to determine the future of their communities. Instead, what I’m starting to see are small groups of activists using the legislation in pursuit of their own unelected ambition or agenda. This month, for example, the Margate neighbourhood plan came in front of Council’s Cabinet for a vote. This placed us in an impossible position on the Conservative side to comment on it, because Louise Oldfield leads it and we were still under caution at the time, remaining under the long shadow of a conspiracy complaint. As a result, the free and democratic process was successfully frustrated by the existence of a criminal complaint.
I still have no redress against any frivolous or malicious allegation of criminal behaviour in public life. As a consequence of this unpleasant ordeal and my growing loss of confidence in our justice system, I have no plans now to stand for re-election next year.
A second prominent councillor, friend and colleague will also be standing down. I’m sure that many readers from Thanet’s wayward political scene will be delighted by this news. I did not join local government to become a political punch-bag and the focus of frivolous or malicious police complaints but instead, to use my talents to help my community, here in Westgate; perhaps even to make it a better place to live and work.
Yesterday, we lost Manston airport and in return, we gained the implicit threat of a thousand new houses, which will be difficult to resist under present planning policies. Listening to Clive Hart's rather graceless speech in Council last night, where he told us that we 'Should never wrestle with a pig', the warning I will leave you with today, is that Thanet’s political scene has become a bitter, divided and deluded playground for fringe personal interests,and policies that have no real place in local government and still further frustrate attempts by some of us attempting to restore the waning public confidence in local government.
The Tories and Tesco. See today's analysis in The Independent Newspaper