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Bonkers Blog May 2013

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25 May - Regina v Peter Craske

CPS letterElwyn Bryant who was a victim of the obscene blog which the police traced to councillor Peter Craske’s telephone line has been pursuing various will-o’-the-wisp Crown Prosecution Service personnel who initially listened to him sympathetically but then mysteriously disappeared or who have subsequently been permanently locked up in meeting rooms.

Elwyn asked the CPS a number of questions following Bexley police’s decision to abandon their investigation last January. Among them, and with reference to an earlier email from the CPS, were…

• The name of the person with Bexleyheath Police who sent the file to the Crown Prosecution Service too late.
• The date on which Police were advised that the case could not be charged as it was too late.
• Why further consideration was given to the case as recorded [by the CPS] on 26 April 2012?
• The date or dates on which further consideration was given to the case.
• What the offence was that the CPS considered to be “not subject to a six month limitation”?
• What was the “certain advice to the police” with regard to “an offence not subject to a six month limitation”?
• The name of the person with Bexleyheath police to whom the advice was given.

After many reminders over nearly three months, the CPS telephoned Elwyn to tell him that they did not intend to reply to his letter because his questions were “irrelevant”. That’s not the sort of response that Elwyn takes lying down and he insisted that at the very least the CPS put its refusal to be questioned in writing. After about a week they did so. The letter is longer than one might imagine, padded as it is with an explanation of the role of the CPS, but clearly they are anxious to say as little as possible. As such there is nothing in the letter that was totally new though it did perhaps bring some things into sharper focus.

It confirms that the police had identified a suspect before Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa came to the borough. The police put a case forward “for charges under Section 2 of the Harassment Act and Section 1 of the Communications Act”. This was rejected on 15th February 2012 because charges of that nature were out of time.

CS Dave StringerWas Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer ignorant of the law or was reference to the CPS just a sham to try to prove he hadn’t totally given up the case - as he had done without good reason six months earlier? Either way the fact remains the police had a name and a case advanced enough to be submitted to the CPS.

The CPS did not leave it there. They advised the police to consider “an offence of abuse of public office” and “advice was given to the officer in the case”. The unstated fact is that this would avoid the problem relating to a six month time expiry.

At that point, Bexley police believed they knew who had committed the crime and knew what the charge was that the CPS would accept. So the next step was obvious and the net was about to be closed? Not a bit of it I’m afraid. CPS advice was again sought in April 2012, just after CS Victor Olisa arrived in town, but after that they never heard another word from Bexley police. Until Elwyn told the CPS, they had no idea the case had been dropped and were surprised. In their own words, “the police should provide a response to our action plan once a case has been referred to us for charging advice”.

It was another nine months before the police made a formal decision to drop the case and they made it very clear in writing, on the telephone and at a meeting that they had no evidence with which to charge their suspect. Yet something like 16 months earlier they had identified the source of the blog and a year earlier felt confident enough with their evidence to put forward a case against councillor Peter Craske. Somehow they had gone backwards.

Will TuckleyMost people will guess that something very fishy has been going on but there really isn’t any need for guessing, for in an unguarded moment the police admitted that their case had been forced off the rails by “political interference”.

My theory has always been that Chief Superintendent Olisa came in with the best of intentions but found himself caught up in the web of corruption woven by Bexley council over the years.

Given all the evidence, the fact no one thought to check up on Craske’s computers until more than a year after the offence was committed, that Olisa got rid of all the officers who had been meddling in the case for the previous year, that Bexley council was busy with behind the scenes lobbying of the CPS and that its leader is best mates with mayor Boris Johnson who is ultimately in charge of the police; no other explanation makes sense. Unless you believe that all the senior officers at Bexleyheath are incompetent beyond belief and spend their days sitting on their hands.

Victor OlisaSo where next? Elwyn has probably gone as far as he can in pushing the CPS, they appear to have correctly advised the police and the police chose to ignore them. I have a complaint outstanding with the Independent Police Complaints Commission which has its origins in a letter to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe dated 7th June 2012. Such is the number of complaints against the police, the IPCC does not expect to allocate it to an investigator until July. That complaint only covers the period until 23rd August 2011 when Bexley police believed they would get away with telling Elwyn and me that nothing could be done and we’d meekly shut up. It seemed at the time to be a lie and subsequent events proved it so.

The next step will be to make a formal complaint about the subsequent investigation and name four or five officers who I believe conspired to ‘lose’ the case, at least in the period up until February 2012, plus those who may have accepted the “political interference”. CS Victor Olisa got extremely angry when I reminded him of the previously admitted political interference. I don’t suppose for one moment that he enjoyed not being free to pursue a strictly lawful investigation but if that is what happened it must be put under the IPCC spotlight, him included.



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