Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Barnet CEO Nick Walkley responds to the Barnet Eye regarding Helen Michael police investigation

Published without comment. Mr Walkley's response to an email I sent. Please note that Councillor Daniel Thomas emailed me to state that I misrepresented his statement in point 1 of my email. He stated that he said Nick Walkley had made the decision "without being influenced by councillors".

Mr Tichborne

Thankyou for your email and I shall respond to your points in turn.

1 The decision to refer the matter of the posters to the Police is one guided by law and followed a complaint received by me in my role as Constituency Returning Officer.

2 It is a requirement of the role of Returning Officer that it operates independently of Cllr influence. As I note above the referral followed receipt of a complaint.

3 The posters referred to had electoral content but no identifying publication mark. This is a potential breach of electoral law requirements. The general statutory obligations of the role and Electoral Commission Guidance direct the Returning Officer to refer the matter to the Police. The form of any subsequent investigation or action is then a matter for the Police.

Such an instance is wholly different to the material produced in the Brunswick Park by-election which was then subsequently withdrawn. In this case a complaint was received of a breach in “Purdah”. As Returning Officer I agreed with the complainant and asked the leaflet be withdrawn - which it was. No breach of electoral law was alleged and no contravention of either election or general law took place since the local authority had neither published nor facilitated the publication of this material. There was no matter that in law or guidance would be referred to the police in this case.

4 No I do not.

5 This quote is taken entirely out of context, relates to a direct exchange with one trader and at the end of the session. It was not addressed to the whole meeting, does not relate to Helen Michael, the North Finchley Traders or their Parking Campaign.

I have no view against the North Finchley Traders and am keen to see the town centre maximise the opportunities of the Olympic Torch Relay and the inward investment brought by the successful Outer London Fund application.

6 As I indicated above the investigation its timing and conduct is a matter for the Metropolitan Police not the Returning Officer and it would be inappropriate for me to therefore comment further.

Nick Walkley

Nick Walkley
Chief Executive
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7001
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk

From: Roger Tichborne [mailto:Roger.Tichborne@btinternet.com]
Sent: 06 July 2012 14:03
To: Walkley, Nick
Cc: Cornelius, Cllr Richard Conservative; Walkley, Nick; Lustig, Jeff; Thomas, Daniel Cllr Conservative
Subject: Re: Helen Michael

Dear Mr Walkley

I am writing to you in your role as returning officer in the GLA and Brunswick Park By-election. Following the suggestion from the Deputy Leader of the Council, I am writing to ask you about several decisions you have taken with regards to the decision to report Helen Michael to the Police.

1. Is Councillor Thomas correct to say that the decision to report Helen Michael to the Police was your decision and your decision alone.

2. Can you confirm that no Barnet Councillor influenced your decision to report Helen Michael.

3. Can you explain why you decided that it was in the public interest to report Helen Michael to the Police, for prodcuing a poster seen by a tiny proportion of the electorate, wheras you decided not to report the Conservative Party officials who distributed a leaflet in Brunswick Park, which was delivered to thousands of people.

4. Do you believe more stringent rules apply to private individuals who distrubute small runs of leaflets and are less likely to be conversant with the law, than trained party officials, producing mass runs of leaflets, with an organised team of distributors?

5. Do you accept that the fact that you had publicly stated that you were "pissed off whith your treatment" at the hands of Helen Michael and other Finchley traders in January, may indicate a lack of partiality on your part with the subsequent complaint to the Police.

6. Do you believe that two police officers interviewing Helen Michael for two hours, three months after the event is a constructive use of Police time in London, three weeks before the Olympics.

I must say that I think that your decision to report Helen Michael to the police was completely over the top. Your response to the Brunswick Park Conservative Party was reasonable and proportionate. It is disturbing that Helen Michael does not seem to have been given the opportunity to recitify the error in the manner which the Brunswick Park Conservatives were.

I trust that you can give a decent explanation as to why such infractions of the law were treated in such a completely different manner, with the more serious and the one more likely to actually affect a result being treated far less seriously.

I look forward to your response.

Roger Tichborne


JVK said...

I'm still not clear why Helen was reported and then investigated twice - she would have withdrawn the poster.

Also why were the Conservatives approached directly without the involvement of the police?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

There is an issue which require clarification. Helen Michael was visited by the Police during the election campaign and advised to change the posters.

Nick Walkley now says: “The decision to refer the matter of the posters to the Police is one guided by law and followed a complaint received by me in my role as Constituency Returning Officer.”

Does this mean he would not have made the referral to the Police if he had not received the complaint?

Last week, Jeff Lustig claimed that Mr Walkley had no choice but to refer the matter to the Police. If that is true (and I am having trouble believing that) then why did Mr Walkley only act upon receipt of a complaint. He was already aware of the poster from the publicity it generated during the election campaign. Why didn’t he act then?

Or is he suggesting that he did act at that time, but the Police only got around to investigating the matter two months after the election?

Perhaps I am being thick (how can you tell the difference, I hear you cry) but something doesn’t stack up here.

Morris Hickey said...

Well I'm sure we could all identify the busted flush behind all this.