Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The police and money (again)

Regular readers may, by now, be detecting a theme!

A Tory MP protested his  innocence yesterday after admitting he was under criminal investigation over claims of a £100,000 benefits fraud. Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough, had his house raided by police and was quizzed for three hours last year by detectives in a dispute over his mother-in-law’s care home fees.

Police have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, who are deciding whether to charge the couple with fraud. But Mr Bone hit back yesterday, saying he was ‘totally innocent’ and slamming the police and council for the way they have handled the affair.

He said: ‘We have done nothing wrong. The claims made are without foundation'.

Ten months after he was questioned under caution, Mr Bone says he has been repeatedly misled by the police over their investigations and the inquiry has still not concluded. 

And he claims the police have failed to tell him what documents they seized in the raid on his Northamptonshire home, including some correspondence from constituents and personal medical records. 

The MP said the couple had  had ‘a lot of promises and assurances which have counted for nothing’ from the police over the return of documents and the ending of  the investigation. He added: ‘Many people would say that the police have misled us.'

Mr Bone also accused the police of leaking the story to the media: ‘I am left wondering whether this was leaked from within the police.’

The basis of the story is that the local council didn't want to pay the care home costs of his elderly mother-in-law.  They believed that some of the money given by her to her children should have been given to the council instead.  The council tried proceedings in the local county court and when that got them nowhere it decided to accuse the couple of fraud and called in the police .

There is an increasing - and worrying - tendency for the police to be used as 'private guns for hire' - using the criminal law to access money that cannot be obtained via civil proceedings.  There was a time when the police would not become involved in civil litigation.  These days, if there is a fast buck in it, they cannot wait to stick the boot in.

From the Daily Mail

It has to be said that there is a certain amount of schadenfreude now that Members of Parliament are being impaled on their own legal petards. Even MPs might now be thinking that it is unwise to create so many all-encompassing laws.

This is what the Court of Appeal said of the trend for police to chase money:
"[Such an arrangement] may compromise the essential independence and objectivity of the police when carrying out a criminal investigation. It might lead to police officers being selective as to which crimes to investigate and which not to investigate. It might lead to victims persuading a police investigating team to act partially. It might also lead to investigating officers carrying out a more thorough preparation of the evidence in a case of a “paying” victim; or a less careful preparation of the evidence in the case of a non-contributing victim’.

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