• East Devon campaign group considers police complaint

    18th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • CONCERNS have been expressed at the “confusing and conflicting” information issued about a police investigation into whether a former East Devon councillor has committed a criminal offence.

    Members of the East Devon Alliance campaign group are concerned that as a result of the time it is taking for controversial comments made by Graham Brown to be examined, potential evidence may be lost.

    Last month, Feniton and Buckerell councillor Graham Brown resigned his seat after he was caught on camera boasting that he could secure planning permission as part of his professional work as a planning consultant.

    It is not illegal for councillors to work as paid consultants.

    East Devon District Council referred Mr Brown’s comments to the police, under the Bribery Act 2010, and the council’s own policy on fraud, theft and anti-corruption.

    A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police initially confirmed the matter had been referred to the authority by the council.

    However, it was subsequently confirmed that the council was advised to report the matter to Action Fraud, the country’s national fraud reporting centre, which then refers cases to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the police.

    The spokesman confirmed there is no police investigation, because nothing has yet been reported back by Action Fraud officials to the authority on whether there is a case.

    Meanwhile, the council is waiting to see if an investigation is launched by the force before it makes a decision on whether to launch its own.

    But campaigners claim they have received conflicting information from police over who is investigating the matter.

    They are concerned it is not being treated with enough urgency, and believe the response they have had to their inquiries has been “inadequate”.

    Ian McKintosh, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, a recently-formed consortium of groups and individuals concerned about the workings of East Devon District Council, said: “We’re extremely concerned, knowing the tight-knit affairs of the council. It’s now been a month and we’ve heard no updates from the police.

    “This is bound to be, largely, a paper investigation and we’re concerned there has been a lot of opportunity for the destruction of possible evidence.

    “We have been told the matter is in the hands of police officers. We’ve had inadequate responses from the police to letters we have written to them, being told that someone will be in touch.

    “East Devon District Council say it can’t order an inquiry until police investigations have concluded but we don’t know why one couldn’t be ordered and then adjourned.”

    Mr McKintosh said the group is now considering taking its concerns to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

    He added: “We’re not impressed by the perceived handling of this matter. It leaves much to be desired and can only increase public suspicion.”

    A spokesperson for the council said it was unable to comment on the matter, adding: “The council is not making any public comment about issues related to the Graham Brown case until such time as the police investigation has been completed.”

    A spokesperson from Action Fraud said no comment could be made on cases.

    The East Devon Alliance holds its next meeting on Saturday, April 20, at 10.30am at the Telfer Centre, Exmouth Community College.

    It is inviting candidates standing in the county council elections on May 2, to pledge support to its campaign.