Two SBC Councillors Accused of Serious Crimes
- an ‘In My View’ article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on recent correspondence with Scarborough Borough Council’s Director of Legal & Democratic Services Lisa DIXON (of Private Eye fame).
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
I recently had the experience of being invited to meet with a lady who wished to tell me her story. I accepted the invitation and travelled to a location in the Scarborough area, where I met the lady, in the company of two other people, both male.
I asked the lady to confirm that she was agreeable to our meeting being audio-recorded. I also asked her to use only initials if she should have occasion to refer to any of those present during the meeting. The lady agreed to these ground rules and proceeded, throughout the next two hours, to describe her experiences in attempting to report, to the North Yorkshire Police, a very serious sexual assault against her that took place many years ago. She responded to questions in a spontaneous, forthright and entirely credible manner. She was visibly distressed when speaking of the events that had haunted her since 3rd September 1983.
I will return to those events in due course, but I want first to share with readers an account of the correspondence I have been conducting with the Scarborough Borough Council Director of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer Lisa DIXON – who I have reminded many times that I have declared my rights to publish my correspondence, at my own prerogative.
Back on the 23rd December 2013, I emailed her to alert her to other allegations that I am about to relate. (It will presently become apparent why that was necessary). Unfortunately, I received no response.
But let us return to the immediate subject.
According to the lady (who I shall henceforth refer to as ‘the Complainant’), she first visited Scarborough Police Station on 29th November 2013, with a view to reporting a crime.
The Complainant related her allegations to the Duty Officer, who was presently joined by another Officer, to whom the ‘bones’ of the allegations were repeated. In brief, the allegations were tantamount to a charge of serious sexual assault, giving the impression of attempted rape. The Complainant confirmed that she knew the exact date and location (3rd September 1983, Scarborough) and the identity of her alleged assailant, who she named, and who had allegedly climbed into her bed naked and attempted to have sex with.
The Officers were familiar with the name – a prominent Councillor. The Complainant was advised to think very carefully before formalising such serious allegations against a member of the Council. She was told that it would (and here, she asserts, she is quoting verbatim) “open a jar of worms”. She was then told that specially trained Officers were tasked with taking statements from victims of sexual offences and asked to return after the weekend. The Complainant left the Police Station full of the foreboding that the cards were about to be stacked against her.
According to the Complainant, she made a number of subsequent visits (and phone calls) to the Police Station and was unable to achieve her goal of recording a Formal Statement and receiving a Crime Number.
The Complainant also stated that she had made it her business to confer with another lady who she knew (and has named) who had allegedly endured a similar attack, also in 1983. This second alleged victim has apparently served as an elected member of a Council in the same area.
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire Police made a date (Sunday 15th December 2013, at 6:30pm) with the Complainant to pick her up from her home and take her to a Police unit a few miles away, where a Video Statement could be recorded. The Complainant stated that the date was cancelled, by telephone, half an hour before the appointed hour, and that a second appointment was made (Tuesday 17th December 2013) which was also duly cancelled, this time with only 20 minutes to go.
According sources close to the Complainant, Christmas came, and New Year went, before she finally provided a Video Statement, in mid-January. The delays were supposedly attributable to the fact that specially-trained Officers from Harrogate had a heavy workload and the journey to Scarborough, to conduct a single interview, was not considered to be performance-effective.
The Monitoring Officer
I referred earlier to my correspondence with the SBC Monitoring Officer Lisa DIXON.
Having waited in anticipation of a statement from the Council or the North Yorkshire Police, I found it necessary to return to Lisa DIXON (on 24th January 2014), who had not responded to my earlier email.
Without naming names, I discreetly made her aware of the information at my disposal and I asked her if the Council would be making an announcement, given the obvious public interest inherent in any allegations of a series of sexual assaults by a member of the Council, particularly in view of other historical allegations made against another prominent Councillor encompassing the same time-frame – former Mayor of Scarborough Peter JACONELLI.
Again, I received no response.
So, on 5th February 2014, I wrote once more to Lisa DIXON, asking her to consider the negative impact the affair was likely to have on the good standing of the Council in general (and other male innocent Councillors, in particular). Regular readers will recall Lisa DIXON threatening legal action against me last March (2013), and complaining that the Council had seldom been offered an opportunity to comment before the publication of Real Whitby articles. So I concluded my email by stating:
“I do not see it as my responsibility to be the bearer of the information that the smiling face which confronts readers from the pages of the local newspapers may, when justice has been done and been seen to have been done, transpire to be the face of a perpetrator of several sexual crimes.
But I do firmly believe that the public – electors and taxpayers – should not fall victim to a deliberate deception, even by omission, on the part of the Council.
Surely, the most prudent, transparent and honourable resolution to this predicament would be for the accused to suspend Council duties until such time as innocence (or guilt) has most diligently been tested by due process – perhaps in a court of law? I believe that this is what is customarily meant by the term “doing the right thing”.
Would you please be so good as to let me know, during the remainder of the working week, what course is to be followed? Thank you.”
This time, Lisa DIXON responded very quickly; by lunchtime of the same day, in fact. She wrote:
“You inform me that these matters have been referred to the police. It is not appropriate for the Council to comment on ongoing police investigations, particularly when you are asking for comments in relation to unspecified unproven allegations against an unnamed Councillor.
If you have a specific complaint against a Councillor’s conduct, this should be referred through the Council’s usual Standards process.
Lisa Dixon, Solicitor
Director of Democratic and Legal Services, Scarborough Borough Council”
But a number of Councillors have intimated that Lisa DIXON is all too aware of the identity of the accused Councillor.
Nonetheless, it is generally considered inappropriate for Councils to comment on ongoing Police investigations. So is she here confirming here that there is an ongoing Police investigation? If so, why not simply say so? Why leave the question in doubt?
And I can conceive of no explanation for Lisa DIXON directing me to the Council’s Standards process – which, as regular readers will know, is constituted solely to address infractions by elected (or co-opted) members of the Council. I have made it clear to Lisa DIXON that , to the best of my knowledge, the Councillor considered was not a member of the council at the time of the alleged offences. Is she genuinely unaware of that – or is she simply giving me her customary runaround?
I responded to Lisa DIXON that same day (5th February 2014), making the following points:
“Be clear, also, that I have no comment to make – either within this thread of correspondence or in the public domain – on individuals who do not bear the public trust.
Please provide me with your assurance that a Police investigation is in progress, if such is the case.”
I wanted to be absolutely sure that my work in the public interest would not engender any negative impact on any Police investigation into the allegations.
Again, Lisa DIXON replied very quickly. Unfortunately, she could merely repeat her earlier advice regarding the Standards procedure. Was she trying to tell me that the accused man was indeed a member of the Council at the time of the alleged offences? Of course, she could only do that directly by conceding that she does know the identity of the Councillor concerned – which is the very thing that she is seemingly so determined to avoid committing to writing.
But I am not easily deterred. And I was becoming concerned that these allegations – now widely circulated around the Borough (and subject, of course, to the distortions which arise through the process known as ‘Chinese whispers’ – that these allegations were in danger of being attributed to other male Councillors who are entirely innocent and in no way involved.
“Would you not agree that those members … who do not face these serious allegations may wish for it to be made clear that they do not stand accused? Or is it the case that your determination to protect the Councillor concerned now runs the risk of tarring all with the same brush? I can discern no advantage to Council or public in allowing such a state of affairs to continue.”
I also stated:
“Your suggestion that I should refer the matter as a Formal Complaint to the Standards Committee, in disregard of the information that I have provided that the Councillor was not (to the best of my knowledge) a member at that time of the alleged serious sexual assaults, would appear to me to be something of a non sequitur.
You have ignored my request:
“Please provide me with your assurance that a Police investigation is in progress, if such is the case.”
I await your response on that. “
Once again, Lisa DIXON responded with unaccustomed alacrity:
“I have not ignored your request: I suggested you refer it to the police.
I have provided you with advice in relation to this matter. I do not see that there is any merit in continuing this discussion.”
The following day (6th February 2014), I replied to Lisa DIXON, thus:
Our correspondence does not comprise a “discussion”.
You state “I have not ignored your request”.
On the contrary, you have ignored my request, which was (and is):
“Please provide me with your assurance that a Police investigation is in progress, if such is the case.”
You have not provided your assurance that a Police investigation is in progress (if such is the case).
Neither have you indicated that a Police investigation is not in progress (if such is the case).
Neither have you indicated that you do not hold this information.
Ergo, and notwithstanding your denial, you have ignored my request.
By your determination to evade this simply expressed request for clarification, you have evinced the very antithesis of the transparency that your Council claims to uphold (on Page 1 of the Constitution), you may be considered to have brought the Council into disrepute. I quote:
- THE COUNCIL’S CONSTITUTION
- The Scarborough Borough Council, (“the Council”), has adopted this Constitution which sets out how the Council operates, how decisions are made, and the procedures which are followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people.
It may be that you have acted ultra vires.
In my view, you have a clear duty to fulfil my request, without further prevarication or obfuscation.
You also have a clear moral duty to afford the (male) Borough & County Councillors who do not stand subject to detailed, credible and extremely serious allegations of sexual assault, the common decency of being spared any further unjust speculation, damaging to their own personal reputations as well as that of the Council.
To that end, you will oblige me, please, by writing to the Councillors who fall into that category, asking each of them to confirm or deny that serious allegations of a sexual nature have been made against them. (You are aware that I am unable to contact Councillors directly because, contrary to page 7 of the Constitution).”
(There is, of course, a precedent for Lisa DIXON referring a Councillor to the Police: ex-Councillor Tim LAWN, when Real Whitby raise the matter of his non-declaration of a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) relating to Sirius Minerals and the potash proposals).
I concluded by stating:
“Our readers may observe for themselves that I am going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that you have had every possible opportunity to conduct yourself in accordance with your statutory duties to uphold the Constitution and, simultaneously, to avoid any possible misconception regarding the identity of the accused Councillor.
Now, Lisa, this is really very simple. Consult your moral compass. Do the right thing.”
Regular readers of Real Whitby will be unsurprised to learn that Lisa DIXON has ignored my most recent email.
In my view, there are two quite distinct issues that deserve to be addressed here.
1) – North Yorkshire Police
If there is indeed (as I am led to believe) an ongoing investigation into these very serious allegations, then we must all await the outcome; albeit – given the revelations that Tim HICKS has been publishing recently – with a certain degree of skepticism.
I have asked NYP to comment and I look forward to publishing such information as NYP sees fit to provide.
2) – Scarborough Borough Council
This is the issue that concerns me most. Rumours about these allegations have been circulating since before Christmas 2013. Throughout this time, speculation has been rife amongst Councillors, Council staff, their wider families, their hair-dressers and taxi-drivers and anyone else with an ear for gossip, about the all important detail – the identity of the accused Councillor.
In the wake of the Jimmy SAVILE and Peter JACONELLI disclosures, there has been a spate of much-publicised sex allegations against television celebrities, including Rolf HARRIS, Freddy STARR, Dave Lee TRAVIS, Jim DAVIDSON, Stuart HALL, Jimmy TARBUCK, Paul GAMBACCINI and others closely associated with the BBC. The state broadcaster has been criticised internationally regarding the culture of secrecy and alleged cover-ups.
ITV’s ‘Corrie’ veteran William ROACHE (‘Ken Barlow’) has just this week been acquitted, as was fellow ‘Corrie’ star Michael Le VELL (‘Kevin Webster’). Older readers may remember the conviction on child abuse charges of another ‘Corrie’ stalwart, Peter ADAMSON (‘Len Fairclough’).
So freely have these household names been paraded in the national (and international) press that some commentators have referred to the entire phenomenon as a ‘witch hunt’, designed to ‘take the heat’ away from politicians.
So the precedent for identifying figures prominent in the public awareness is thus very well established indeed.
Lisa DIXON clearly believes that Councillors fall into a special exemption category. Are Councillors protected? Are they above the law?
Perhaps Lisa DIXON should consider putting herself in the position of those male Councillors who are old enough to have been sexually mature in 1983 – and who are now ALL in the unenviable position of being the subject of unfettered speculation and gossip. Perhaps if Lisa DIXON were the wife of a Councillor in that ‘qualifying group’, she would recognise the duty she has to those Councillors, their wives and families.
And consider this: if television celebrities at the twilight of highly successful careers, huge popularity and high accolades (including several who have been knighted, in acknowledgement of the contributions they have made to the entertainment industry) can be named in the press long before formal charges were ever made – much less a jury sworn in or evidence presented and a verdict delivered – on what basis can she justify keeping the name of the accused Councillor in this present case out of the public domain, at all costs?
Because there are costs – costs to the victims and costs to the innocent, as I have explained above.
I could publish that name right now – secure in the knowledge that I heard these totally credible allegations made in good faith, with my own ears – and with witnesses present. (It is not I, remember, who accuses the Councillor concerned of these crimes). And by naming the accused, I would be doing the innocent Councillors a considerable service. But I have no intention of compromising any forthcoming Police investigation.
However, there is a duty to publish a statement, and in my view that duty rests firmly with Scarborough Borough Council – whose treatment of the Peter JACONNELLI victims has been appalling – and whose apparent present determination to conceal the accused Councillor’s identity is both disloyal to totally innocent Councillors and a disgraceful breach of the Council’s Constitutional duty to act with transparency and accountability to the public.
I have also been corresponding with Lisa DIXON on another matter this week. I had written to her before Christmas to alert her to a ‘comment’ posted on 29th November 2013 by a member of the public on Real Whitby, below an article by Tim HICKS, entitled (ironically) “Official: Peter Jaconelli Innocent”. The ‘comment’ contained a very serious allegation of Police brutality attempting to pervert the course of justice, in Scarborough in the late ‘eighties. A complaint had allegedly been made at the time, then withdrawn under duress – following the alleged ‘intervention’, in an entirely unacceptable manner, of a ranking Officer (since, long retired from the Police and better known now for his work on the Council).
At a time when Scarborough Borough Council has been examining Real Whitby articles for nearly a year now, in the vain search for some form of words that would stand up in a court of law as libel, I assumed that Lisa DIXON must already have been aware of the ‘comment’.
Had she considered the ‘comment’ remotely libellous, no doubt she would (and indeed should) have written immediately to Real Whitby to communicate a robust denial and a formal request for the ‘comment’ to be deleted. But she has not. Not before my email of Christmas Eve; not since my email of Christmas Eve. Not up to now. No denial has ever been forthcoming. No request for deletion. That tells a story . . .
And I must make clear that at no point in my email did I express the wish or intention to make a complaint of any kind. I simply requested a statement for publication.
Lisa DIXON ignored that email.
So on Thursday 6th February 2014, I emailed her once again on the subject. I thought I might get a response now that I had her full attention in the matter of the sexual assault allegations outlined above.
This time, I did get a prompt response, but once again it was disingenuous in the extreme. Headed ‘Confidential’, it had other recipients in the Cc: box (and, for all I know, others in the Bc: box). So much for Lisa DIXON’s conception of confidentiality.
Her emailed response contained only one line:
- “Your complaint has been referred to the Police’s Professional Standards Department.”
I can only repeat that at no point have I expressed a wish or intent to make a complaint. Why has Lisa DIXON failed to grasp that fact?
Nevertheless, we may now speculate that a Police investigation may possibly at last be under way in respect of these allegations – nearly ten weeks after they appeared. It may even be that Lisa DIXON has reported the matter to the Police – as a means to ‘gag’ me.
If such is the case, it may be inappropriate for me to comment further – other than to reproduce (for the reader’s convenient reference) the ‘comment’ itself, that I brought to the attention of Lisa DIXON in the first place on Christmas Eve 2013. It has been in the public domain since 29th November 2013, remember, without rebuttal, without a request for its removal, without legal action against Real Whitby or anyone else. Here it is:
“malcolm November 29, 2013 at 12:00 am
I was arrested but never was charged. I was taken to Scarborough police station and locked up in the custody suite for eight hours. The police would not even let me give my giro including milk tokens to my then girl friend as the child needed milk. My girl friend was eventually brought to the cell area to get the giro and milk tokens then PC Clarke and I believe PC Thomson both grabbed me in a neck hold in front of my girl friend, forcing a large custody cell key into my mouth, ripping the inside of my mouth. My girl friend ran out and went straight to my solicitors to see Steven Dury at Thorpe and Co, Scarborough Valley Bridge Parade. I was forced back into the cell by both officers and the door locked. My mouth was bleeding badly I knew that I needed hospital treatment I kept buzzing the buzzer then the desk Sergeant came, opened the cell door and asked me what I wanted I found it very painful to speak and felt very threatened, wandering what could happen next if I had to stay here, my life could be in danger. What if the key had gone in my eye or choked me? Soon as the desk sergeant saw my face with the blood coming out of my mouth he said he was going to get another officer to take me immediately to the hospital at Scarborough. The police officer that took me was called was Scarborough Old Town local Bobby Kev Buchanan. At the hospital I had to have my mouth stitched up which caused me great discomfort and numb feelings for a very long time. Eating was very difficult. I lost weight. I was taken back to the police station and locked up. Around 30 minutes later I told the desk sergeant that i wanted to file a complaint against the two officers regarding assaulting me. 15 to 20 minutes later Inspector Tom Fox came into my cell to say to me if I was to file a complaint against the two officers that he would do everything in his power to say that I assaulted the two officers and he would make it stick, “I do it all the time and believe me you will lose”. This happened in 1987. I had had a serious accident in 1985. My right arm was nearly ripped off giving me a disability for life which I still have to attend hospitals. I was later released with no charges.”
So there we are; two Scarborough Borough Councillors, each under a very dark cloud indeed. And not a word from the House of Secrets.
I close by inviting readers to form their own opinion of the kind of characters we find ensconced within Scarborough Town Hall, and by reminding readers that it would be entirely inappropriate to speculate about the guilt or innocence of the accused Councillors in the ‘comments’ section, below. Please refrain from doing so.
No doubt the Council, in the interests of fairness (to other Councillors) and transparency (to the public), will be making an announcement very soon. Hold the front page!