Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Detective Superintendent Nick Gargan, Leicestershire Constabulary


Yesterday morning, Chief Inspector Paul Smith and I attended your office to discuss the action taken by Leicestershire Constabulary in response to information provided to us by Mr Vaz on 5 October, 2001. I understand that the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges asked you to see me to establish the current state of police investigations. The purpose of this letter is to set out our position in order to respond fully to the Committee's request.

I should begin by pointing out that there have been two broad areas of investigation for Leicestershire Constabulary. The first has addressed the extent to which Mr Vaz or his mother may have been the victims of criminal acts performed by one or more third parties. Secondly, we have looked for evidence of any criminality on Mr Vaz's part that might lead to a criminal prosecution. I will deal with each in turn.

The nature of allegations by Mr Vaz appears to have changed subtly as time has gone on. Initially, Chief Inspector Smith understood himself to be investigating a complaint of malicious telephone calls and harassment. Mr Vaz has since said that it was never his intention to make a formal complaint of any crime, his contact with the Police was intended to be an informal request for advice. He has now made it entirely clear that he does not wish us to investigate these incidents; indeed he has refused to co-operate with the investigation, specifically with a request to have access to telephone billing data.

The presumed victim of any offence would be Mr Vaz's mother. For some time after the allegations were made she was in hospital but was discharged at the end of November, 2001. Chief Inspector Smith wrote to her at the beginning of December, inviting her to provide us with information. To date, we have not received a reply from her and, given her current health problems, I am not minded to sanction any addition contact with her.

We have not confined our enquiry solely to contact with Mr Vaz. We have interviewed the most likely potential suspects, who have co-operated fully and we have been provided with information by independent third parties. We have found nothing that would lend weight to the allegations originally made by Mr Vaz. Indeed, I am satisfied that no malicious calls were made.

Chief Inspector Smith then focused on the question of Mr Vaz's actions and whether he had himself been responsible for any criminal offences in his contact with Leicestershire Constabulary. We considered a range of possible offences, including Wasteful Employment of the Police and an Attempt to Pervert the Course of Justice. In deciding whether to continue with our investigations. I have been mindful of the need to ensure that Mr Vaz's position as a Member of Parliament and former Minister does not lead to him receiving more or less favourable treatment by the Police.

Mr Vaz has not made a statement in respect of the alleged malicious calls, neither has his mother. No crime report has been prepared. The number of policing hours involved in this investigation is augmented by what I would describe as "discretionary" police activity; brought about by police management decisions rather than by Mr Vaz's report itself. As Mr Vaz was not himself the victim of the alleged offence, and the victim has chosen not to co-operate with the investigation, I do not see that there is sufficient prospect of a successful outcome to pursue the investigation any further. That is not to say that police time has not been wasted, merely that our criteria for initiating a prosecution have no realistic prospect of being met.

The same is true of the other offences that we have considered. We cannot rule out a tactical motivation for Mr Vaz's contact with Leicestershire Constabulary in this matter, but the evidence does not support further investigation of any attempt to pervert the course of justice. Indeed, even if we were to produce evidence that Mr Vaz was intending to undermine or de-stabilise witnesses, they would be witnesses before the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges rather than a court of law.

A final consideration, that is relevant to both parts of the Police investigation, is the precise nature of the conduct alleged by Mr Vaz at the outset. Although he describes the acts as criminal, it is by no means clear that they do actually amount to criminality. At no point is the caller to Mrs Vaz alleged to have made threats and we have insufficient detail to establish whether the pattern and frequency of calls amounts to harassment. Without the official complaint from Mr Vaz we are now unlikely to ever establish the truth.

I am now satisfied that we have explored all realistic lines of enquiry and that no useful purpose would be served by extending the Police investigation. This decision has been influenced by my belief that no calls, of the sort described by Mr Vaz, took place and that the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges is, in the circumstances, better placed than the Leicestershire Constabulary to deal with any residual issues.

I hope this letter adequately explains the current position. I have no objection to it being forwarded to the Members of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. Thank you for your co-operation with our investigation.

10 January 2002

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