Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


820.  During this inquiry several disturbing incidents have been reported to me as cases of alleged harassment.

Mrs Vaz Senior

821.  Mr Vaz told me that his mother, Mrs Vaz senior, had received a harassing telephone call from one of the complainants, Miss Eggington, who Mrs Vaz senior believed to have been acting on my behalf. Miss Eggington has vehemently denied this allegation.

822.  Mr Vaz reported this incident to the police, who have tried to obtain Mrs Vaz senior's account of the call. Mr Vaz has maintained that his mother's illness has made it impossible for her to provide the police with a statement.

823.  On 7 December 2001, after I had sent my draft memorandum to Mr Vaz, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Smith informed me by telephone that, following the police enquiries, he was of the view that no telephone call had been made to Mrs Vaz senior by Miss Eggington or Mrs Gresty on 4 October 2001. At my request Detective Chief Inspector Paul Smith provided me with a report on his enquiries dated 12 December 2001 (Annex IV22). The report states that although Mr Vaz had "declined to facilitate [police] contact with his mother"... "The Leicestershire Constabulary are now in receipt of information to suggest that no calls were received by Mrs Vaz's home telephone on the 4th October, 2001, that could be attributable to either Miss Eggington or Mrs Gresty ".

824.  Mr Vaz has complained to me about my request that the police provide me with a copy of their report on the incident. Mr Vaz said that he would report me to the Speaker for making this request. He said I was interfering in a criminal prosecution by doing so, though he later accepted that there was no such prosecution in progress. Leicestershire Police have interviewed Miss Eggington and Mrs Gresty about this matter. (Mr Vaz had also complained to the Leicestershire Police that Mrs Gresty might have been the alleged caller, though he has not said this to me.)

825.  The Leicestershire Constabulary told me that they were surprised to learn from me that Miss Eggington was a complainant in a case under investigation by me involving Mr Vaz, as Mr Vaz had not told them this. The police have also informed me that Mr Vaz had reported to them that Miss Eggington had made several calls to his mother. Mr Vaz has at no stage mentioned to me any other alleged harassing calls by Miss Eggington to Mrs Vaz senior.

826.  In addition, I have now been informed by Leicestershire Constabulary that Miss Eggington did not make the telephone call to Mrs Vaz senior as alleged by Mr Vaz. The making of such an accusation would always be a very serious matter. To make an allegation that a complainant had made such a call when this was untrue, and when Mr Vaz had no evidence to suggest that it might be true, is a gross attack on the integrity and reputation of a member of the public assisting in a Parliamentary inquiry. Mr Vaz requested that I pursue his allegation and I did so. I have therefore wasted my time in this process and as a consequence have brought distress to Miss Eggington and wasted her time. It appears that Mr Vaz may have also wasted police time, although that is a matter for the appropriate authorities.

Mr and Mrs Gresty

827.  Mr and Mrs Gresty complained to me about the alleged harassment of Mrs Gresty. She said she felt harassed when she received a letter from lawyers employed by Ms Fernandes which said that Ms Fernandes was considering taking legal action against Mrs Gresty. Mrs Gresty was so distressed by this letter that on 8 November 2001 she told me that she felt she could not continue as a witness to this inquiry. It is to Mrs Gresty's credit that, despite feeling harassed by this letter, she decided to continue as witness.

828.  The letter, which was sent on behalf of Ms Fernandes, was not, in its tone or wording, an overtly harassing letter but there is no doubt that Mrs Gresty felt intimidated by it. I cannot say whether this letter was sent with any intention of harassing Mrs Gresty, but it was ill-timed and inappropriate during an inquiry of this kind.

829.  As a practising solicitor Ms Fernandes was doubtless aware of the effect such a letter might have on a witness to an inquiry. As she knew Mrs Gresty well, and was aware that she had recently suffered a period of illness one might have hoped Ms Fernandes would not have felt it necessary to approach Mrs Gresty in this way. This action by Ms Fernandes was most regrettable.

Miss Eggington

830.  Miss Eggington also wrote to me to complain about a letter she had received from Ms Fernandes's solicitors. In her statement she said she felt threatened by the tone of this letter and that she said that she sensed that Ms Fernandes was "trying to intimidate and bully" her.

831.  After I had drafted the main sections of this memorandum, Miss Eggington wrote to me again on 6 December 2001 (Annex IV23), to inform me of a further exchange of correspondence with Ms Fernandes's solicitors concerning possible legal proceedings by Ms Fernandes, over an alleged breach of confidence by Miss Eggington, which Miss Eggington has denied. I regard such letters to a complainant in a Parliamentary inquiry as inappropriate.

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Prepared 8 February 2002