I am beginning to recover from the dreaded flu by making a few decisions; one
is that when the opportunity arises BiB will carry more stories about our
politicised and too often thoroughly corrupt police and will no longer consider a
Bexley connection to be essential.
I know for a fact, but am unfortunately sworn to secrecy, that right to the very highest level the Metropolitan Police is institutionally corrupt and probably only one of its Commissioners over the past 30 years has not been complicit in that corruption - and he was the only one to be sacked.
It will not be a daily occurrence but when the police are more than normally stupid BiB will endeavour to spread the word.
I am beginning to get my head around the gravity of what the police did to me just over two weeks ago and this morning did something I should have done immediately. I posted a formal letter of complaint.
Perhaps irrationally I also find myself annoyed with every Labour politician in Bexley. Considering how much time I spend defending them against the Tories who do little but bend the truth, I am more than a little disappointed that not a single one of them enquired about my experience at the hands of the police in Swanley. I am politically inclined to the right and always have been and it has not always been easy to find subjects on which I can lend my support to Socialists. If Bexley was not run by Tory liars I might find it an impossible task.
Come next Spring with an election due my current feeling is that Bexley Labour should not expect any support from Bexley-is-Bonkers. Maybe the flu bug is still doing the talking but that is the way I see things right now.
Usually I spend days fine tuning a letter of complaint, the one now on its way to Maidstone was rather different, I wrote it over an hour or two and didn’t change a thing before it went into the postbox.
Maybe I will live to regret that but enough time has been wasted already.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley
Kent Police Headquarters
2nd January 2018
This letter is a formal complaint against Kent Police in general and PC Brooks (13546) based in Swanley in particular.
I publish a news website in Bexley, South East London, covering mainly but not exclusively Council based news which is no longer covered by the local press.
The most recent items are entirely typical
• A pub closure.
• A new housing development in the town centre and the total lack of affordable homes in every recent high profile planning application.
• A rerouted bus.
• Two formal reports on Council meetings.
• Fly tipping.
• The failure of the Oyster ticket machines at the newly opened Abbey Wood station.
On 18th December 2017 PC Brooks phoned me at home to say I had been accused of harassment and must attend Swanley police station in the immediate future or face arrest. She refused to tell me which news item she considered to be harassment or who had made the allegation. I could only guess what the problem might be. I would appreciate advice on whether or not PC Brooks was following correct procedure in keeping me in ignorance and potentially unable to make suitable preparations.
On arrival in Swanley PC Brooks told me that I had been accused of harassment by Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill.
Councillor Fothergill is well known to Kent Police. To my knowledge she has caused four people to be arrested in Kent, three of them at least on totally false charges, I understand she has also made a complaint against a police officer who eventually came to realise he had been hoodwinked by Councillor Fothergill into keeping one of her employee victims under wrongful arrest for eleven months.
Councillor Fothergill widely circulated a libellous letter about her intended victim and her new employer. On 14th November 2017 she paid the price in the High Court. The settlement totalled £70,000.
I published news of the Councillor’s lost libel case on 14th November but without any detail because the promised Press Pack had not arrived and without documentary evidence a small news website cannot risk going too far.
The Press Pack had still not arrived by the following day and I published an apology to readers for keeping them in suspense. It drew attention to the need to keep the correct balance between causing difficulties for the subject, Councillor Fothergill, and reporting factual news.
On 16th November the Press Pack belatedly arrived which allowed publication of Court documents to prove the news was well founded. A national news outlet may be able to publish facts without any documentary back-up but a very minor one must provide the evidence if it is to be considered credible.
The accompanying commentary went no further than explaining the circumstances which led to the case going to the High Court. At no time was any personal judgment made on the perpetrator of the libel.
On 17th November I published some correspondence between Kent Police and one of the litigants which attempted to show that Kent Police was not interested in the truth and happy to provide false information to the Crown Prosecution Service.
On 19th November a copy of the libellous letter was made public but without comment. It was inexplicably missing from the original Press Pack.
And that was the end of the matter, over a period of four days an item of Council related news had made the headlines and gone away.
Nearly three weeks later I received a letter from Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor about my news reports. He asked only that I did not link to any other website that had covered the story. It was clear that Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor had no complaints about my reporting.
He drew my attention to a political website which commented on the news in a way I had not. It sought to portray Councillor Fothergill as corrupt whereas my own passed no judgment whatsoever.
I revisited the subject specifically saying that what Councillor Fothergill had done was unwise but not corrupt. Despite that it is me she accuses of harassment and there is no complaint against the political news site.
Bexley Councillors have a long track record of malicious attacks on my publishing activities. As a result I have been threatened with arrest for “criticising Councillors”. A complaint went to the IPCC who instructed the Metropolitan Police to withdraw their threat.
I was also accused by the Metropolitan Police of revealing the personal details of a minor by illustrating a factual story with a deliberately blurred copy of a photograph taken from a Bexley Councillor’s public Facebook page.
My text did not reveal who was in the photograph or its source or make any reference to the photograph at all yet I was under threat of arrest for seven months until the Metropolitan Police climbed down.
Their excuses for their error included a useful note of how the law of harassment might apply to news publications. Mine has not been anywhere near to transgressing those guidelines. PC Brooks has had a copy of it for more than two weeks.
She told me that I would be informed of the outcome of the interview under caution within a couple of days, by the following weekend at the latest but there has been no contact.
My complaint is that the harassment allegation is frivolous. PC Brooks’ definition of harassment being any news item that might cause discomfort to someone somewhere would bring the whole of the press to a standstill.
A moment’s research on her part would have revealed that I had published only documented facts with almost no comment at all.
It recognised a balance between news and the potential for distress must be maintained and for that reason the subject was allowed to fade away within four days. Facts without any opinion piece cannot reasonably be interpreted as harassment and is certainly well within Met. Police guidelines issued to me.
I understand from PC Brooks that there may be a secondary allegation relating to Bexley Council finding Councillor Fothergill guilty of using her elected position to obtain financial advantages for herself.
Bexley Council released that news only reluctantly and over a long period. Each release was factually reported but the emphasis of guilt gradually changed. By the end it seemed possible that the earliest reports that came from Bexley Council were not entirely truthful but that would not be clear to anyone reading only those initial reports.
At her request I met Councillor Fothergill and we agreed a compromise which was to prefix every report on the subject with a summary, favourable to her, of what happened later so that all readers would be fully informed of the final outcome.
This summary (or an improved version of it) has remained in place for well over a year and as agreed with Councillor Fothergill. She has made no complaint. She cannot reasonably allege harassment by something which she herself requested, agreed and has hitherto accepted.