Archive for November, 2010

Terry Fitzpatrick to stand trial

In August, I reported that Terry Fitzpatrick had been committed to Snaresbrook Crown Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing at the end of September.

His last appearance there was on October 28 when he was committed to trial at the same court on March 21 next year.

A number of points on the original indictment (detailed in the link above) have been dropped and only one is now left – that of racially aggravated harassment. Snaresbrook Crown Court will not give me any more details. Terry, 63, pleaded not guilty.

The case involves allegations made by Operation Black Vote.

For legal reasons, I am not allowing any comments on this thread.

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Today’s East London Advertiser hits the bull’s eye. It adds more detail to the story broken here yesterday that Cllr Shelina Akhtar is a benefit fraudster. So we learn from the ELA that:

  • the alleged fraud for which was arrested on November 9 was supposedly sub-letting her housing association property
  • she denies any wrongdoing, saying, “I’m clean. Let’s wait until the investigation.”
  • her conviction for benefit fraud in July included false claims for Jobseeker’s allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit while she had in fact been working
  • Mayor Lutfur Rahman has said: “Everyone who seeks to represent the interests of this community must abide by the highest standards of personal conduct.”

As the ELA says, she can only be chucked off the council at this stage after an investigation by the council’s Standards Committee. I understand that another councillor has already made a formal complaint.

The local government code of conduct states that councillors must not behave “in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the authority into disrepute”. I would have thought defrauding the very council taxpayers whom you are meant to be representing falls well within the “disrepute” category.

And here’s another interesting little thing. At the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on July 14 – just 13 unlucky days before she was convicted for benefit fraud at Thames Magistrates’ Court – Cllr Akhtar tabled a question to then finance chief, Cllr David Edgar. The question was number 7.27 on page 40 of this pdf.

But as it’s so good, I’ll just copy it here as well:

7.27 Question from Councillor Shelina Akhtar to the Lead Member for Resources, Councillor David Edgar

“What are the likely effects of the coalition government’s plans to make £11bn in cuts to Welfare including cutting housing benefit, tax credits, Disability Living Allowance and freeze Child Benefit on residents in Tower Hamlets?”

Quite some front, don’t you think? I wonder what her Lutfurite colleague Cllr Oli Rahman makes of it all: his day job is in a Job Centre helping to detect benefits cheats.

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Further to my post about Cllr Shelina Akhtar yesterday, the Met Police now tell me that she was arrested on suspicion of fraud on November 9. Another person connected to the case was arrested the following day. As I wrote, they have both been bailed to return to an east London police station on December 7.

However, there are some other details. Thames Magistrates’ Court has just told me that on July 27 this year, a Shelina Akhtar (whose date of birth was given as September 1978, ie now aged 32) received a conviction for three counts of benefit fraud. She was given a 12 month community service order and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work. She was also fined £250.

The prosecutors in the case were the Department for Work and Pensions. Her conviction states that “she failed to notify of a change in circumstances, namely that she was working between July 22, 2008 and April 5, 2009”. That is, she was wrongly claiming benefits for a period of nine months. At the time of the conviction, she gave her address as a flat in Blackwall Way in E14.

Cllr Shelina Akhtar was registered on the electoral roll at Toynbee Street, Spitalfields, in December 2009. According to Met Police sources, her age is 32.

The Town Hall is investigating whether this is the same person.

If so, some questions:

– was the Labour party aware of this when she was nominated to stand for them in Spitalfields (Abbas’s and Lutfur’s stronghold) in April 2010?

– was anyone in Tower Hamlets council aware of this?

– why did she ask the council after she was elected in May to amend her surname to Aktar?


UPDATE – 5.15pm

Graham Taylor, the chair of the Tower Hamlets Labour party has issued the following statement:

“Tower Hamlets Labour Party confirms that it was unaware of any prosecution at any point.
“As part of the applcaiton form and during the interview stage of the selection process to be a candidate, all applicants are asked whether:
– there are any interests that they would need to declare if elected
– whether there is anything that has happned to them that could cause embarassment to the party, and
– whether there is anything that would bar them for being a candidate.

“Cllr Akhtar made no such declaration.”

Meanwhile, Labour group leader Helal Abbas has also issued a statement, saying he did not now about any allegations until told yesterday. He adds:

Cllr Aktar had not declared anything of this nature to me when being selected as a Labour Candidate or since being elected to serve on the Council.
“I believe that all allegations against Councillors of wrong-doing should be investigated thoroughly using the Council’s mechanisms and appropriate action taken.  I think it is important that all elected representatives act with integrity and set a good example to their constituents.”

I have tried calling Cllr Akhtar, but so far I’ve been unable to get through.


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Andrew Gilligan had the first report (the detail of which is unconfirmed). One of Lutfur Rahman’s councillors is in a spot of bother.

Here’s some confirmed detail. A statement from Tower Hamlets council names the councillor as Shelina Akhtar. She was elected as a member of the Labour party in May and represents Spitalfields and Banglatown.

The council says:

We can confirm that Councillor Shelina Akhtar is still a councillor for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The matter over which she has been arrested is being investigated by the police.

There is an ongoing police investigation and at this stage we have nothing further to add.

After she was elected, she wrote the following about herself on the Labour party website:

I have lived in Tower Hamlets for over 17 years, and as such have experienced the many diverse cultures it has to offer. I have attended and participated in festivals and events at the centre of the local community, and as a resident feel I can represent your concerns and views effectively at council. Also, by volunteering as a youth worker, supporting young people aged between 8-19 years from different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities and working as an Enrichment and Youth Worker at Tower Hamlets College, I care deeply about the opportunities available to young people in our area. I believe that by supporting them and teaching them valuable skills, we can empower and educate them for the future. I have also worked for our community as Vice Chair of Spitalfields and BanglaTown, and have been involved in many local campaigns to improve parking in the ward, set up youth centres and create new playgrounds for the future.

More to follow…

UPDATE – 5.45pm

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police has just told me: “An allegation of fraud has been made and Tower Hamlets CID are currently investigating. Two people have been arrested. They have been bailed to return to an east London police station on December 7.”

He was unable to provide any more details until the officer dealing with the case is back in tomorrow.

For legal reasons, I’m going to pre-approve all comments on this post, so please be patient as I’m going to be at a function for the first part of this evening and will unable to press the right button.

(Photo courtesy of Dan McCurry.)

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Every Friday, after lunchtime prayers at the East London Mosque, an odd-ball collection of angry looking men from Hizb ut-Tahrir and the banned Al Muhajiroun group try to hand out leaflets to departing worshippers. They rarely persuade anyone to read them and most of those who do simply roll their eyes.

For several years now, Tower Hamlets has been a magnet for nutters. Some of them even tried taking George Galloway “hostage” during his 2005 general election campaign.

Last week, another leaflet was dished out. This was one was for an event/group called IslamicRevival 2010 which was planning a day of speeches on November 27. Among those who were due to talk were: Omar Bakri Muhammad, who has just been captured in Lebanon after a conviction there for inciting murder and possessing explosives; Anjem Choudary, the motormouth hate-preacher formerly known as “Andy”; and Jamaican-born ex-con convert Trevor Brooks, aka Abu Izzadeen.

Here‘s the poster:

Spot the venue? Collingwood Hall in Bethnal Green. The hall is owned and managed by the council and I understand the booking was accepted by a town hall based official last month.

When council chief executive Kevan Collins found out on Friday, he ordered an investigation.

The booking has since been cancelled.

When then council leader Helal Abbas forced the cancellation of another extremist Islamic conference that had been due to take place last June, he was attacked by many for supposedly suppressing freedom of speech. In fact, according to the blogger TowerHamletsWatch, he was even booed off stage at a subsequent rally against fascism in Altab Ali Park. TowerHamlets Watch also reported at the time that Lutfur Rahman was also a critic:

At the park I watched everyone gather into a peaceful group , packing the park, and all united against the EDL. Then I heard ‘Lutfur Rahman’ speak, he went into a long diatribe about the Troxy, and what was going to be a peaceful islamic conference, informing us that this was cancelled by our Council. That the council had no right to do this, and we must boot out these people and vote for strong leadership for our borough. Thats when it finally hit me, thats when I finally realised two things.

One that ‘Lutfur Rahman’ supported the Islamic Conference and apparently by castagating the council in this way, that this was an admission that he could see no harm in allowing this type of ‘hate speech’ (if the allegations are true) into the borough, and Two, that what I was witnessing was not solely about the EDL, it was about voting for our new soon to be elected Mayor.

Will Mayor Rahman now be booing the decision to cancel the Collingwood Hall event? Did he even know it had been cancelled?

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Andrew Gilligan highlights an appearance by Ken Livingston on Andrew Neil’s Daily Politics show last week. I found the last sentence of the following part of their exchange particularly interesting:

Neil: You did, really, campaign and wanted to see this Lutfur Rahman winning, and he wasn’t the Labour candidate, didn’t you?

Ken: He’d been selected by local people, I think the NEC was wrong to remove him. It’s had real shades of me ten years ago.

Neil: But he loved it. He said, I’m grateful to him for coming here to support justice, I’m very happy to have his support.

Ken: I know.

Neil: Against the Labour candidate!

Ken: I would have been quite happy to go down with the local Labour candidate, but he didn’t want me around, because he’s been one of my opponents for a long time.

Helal Abbas, one of Ken’s opponents for a long time? Really?

When Ken was fighting for re-election as London mayor in 2008, they didn’t look like enemies. In fact, in the last week of his campaign when Ken begged for votes at the Brick Lane mosque, where Abbas was an influential figure, I watched him warmly wrap his arms around his “enemy”.

They even marched down Brick Lane together, smiles aplenty. Ken seems to make a habit of doing that doesn’t he?

Here’s the East London Advertiser report we produced at the time:

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I wasn’t there, but Lutfur’s first cabinet did in the end manage to go ahead. He did finally persuade enough people to join him to make the meeting quorate.

Unfortunately for him, the four who have taken up posts are all from his ‘group of eight’ ex-Labour councillors.

So Alibor Choudhary takes the finance portfolio, new councillor Rabina Khan is in charge of housing, Oli Rahman is responsible for children and education, and his fellow Respect defector, Rania Khan, will run regeneration.

Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds, who was there, said: “His cabinet is beyond parody. You couldn’t find a more ineffectual bunch of four if you tried. Who’s going to have any respect for people who have belonged to four political groupings in the past four years?”

He refers, of course, to Oli Rahman and Rania Khan: they left Respect for SWP/Left List/Independent, then Labour, then Independent.

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