Disgraced activist claims arrest ‘politically motivated’

At 6.25am on Friday, 23rd July, 2021 six Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers attended at an address in Mossley, Tameside to arrest a 48 year old male on suspicion of racially aggravated public order and malicious communications offences.

A search of the premises was undertaken by way of Section 32 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (commonly known as PACE). A number of items were seized, including computer equipment, several ‘tablet’ style electronic devices, a mobile telephone and two note-books (or journals).

As live criminal proceedings are in train, what can be reported is limited in order not to prejudice an ongoing police investigation or any court action that may follow.

The person arrested has, however, since identified himself as Raja Miah, a disgraced former free schools operator who is the person behind discredited social media platforms by the name of Recusant Nine (R9). He has served a number of suspensions, imposed by both Facebook and YouTube, over posts that were reported as defamatory, harassing, untrue or, frequently, all three. He robustly denies any criminal wrongdoing and in interview, he says, gave a single answer to every question put to him: ‘This is a politically motivated arrest’

According to GMP, Miah was released in the early afternoon on the same day on conditional bail. It is understood that those conditions include a return, in 28 days, to the same police station at which he was interviewed and, further, not contacting specified individuals either in person, by telephone, email, letter or via social media.

It appears that those bail conditions were broken within a few hours of Miah’s release: In an openly defiant podcast, beginning shortly after 7.30pm and hosted on his R9 Facebook page, in which he mocked the efficiency of GMP, questioned their motive, and accused some of the officers of being rude and brutish, he derided some of the complainants against him, including at least one who was mentioned on his custody release form. A further complaint by the person affected has been made to GMP. 

The local press has reported that the arrest is in connection with Operation Hexagon. That requires some detailed clarification and is not in any way prejudicial to the investigation or any future proceedings. Particularly, as Miah appears to be broadcasting or posting about the arrest at least once every day.

It is the strong, and highly informed, contention of the author of this piece, Neil Wilby, who broke news of the arrest on social media almost five hours before anyone else, that the Oldham Times was misinformed by GMP:

In December last year, a surprise announcement was made in a local newspaper about a previously unheralded investigation: Codenamed Hexagon, it had, by then GMP says, been running for around fifteen months. 

From the press report it was gleaned that the probe was established under the Gold Command of Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Nick Bailey to work with the Oldham Strand of the Manchester Mayor’s Assurance Review. This chiefly concerns historic child sexual exploitation allegations, and any Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council failings and those of partner agencies, that may have been associated with them.

The full Terms of Reference for the Assurance Review can be read here. Briefly, it will consider allegations of historic abuse that have been made on social media involving shisha bars, taxi companies and children’s homes. Principally propagated by Raja Miah, whom, apparently, re-invented himself as a child sex abuse campaigner in order to disguise his own catastrophic failings as a free schools operator which were made public in early 2018 (read more here). 

Also included in the Review is the nature and extent to which adults had inappropriate access to children and young people resident in children’s homes in the Borough putting them at risk of harm. It will also look at the extent to which historical actions of Oldham Council and employment records have been adequately investigated in the case of what are termed as known offenders, previously employed within the public sector.

One such known individual is jailed Rochdale grooming leader, Shabir Ahmed, whom worked at Oldham Council until 2005. An insider says that the report will identify some council failings in this regard, but no child is known to have come to harm as a result.

The framework of the review says ‘particular reference’ will be made to concerns that statutory agencies were ‘aware of this abuse, failed to respond appropriately to safeguard the children and subsequently covered up these failings’.

The Review team’s report is ‘owned’ by the Mayor’s office, Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Upon completion, it will be published by them, following the pattern of the Rochdale and South Manchester (Operation Augusta) Strand that was made public at a press conference in January, 2020. The efforts of the investigators, two of the country’s leading experts in this field, Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgeway, were, justifiably, widely acclaimed by victims, campaigners such as Maggie Oliver, and the media, for an exceptionally thorough, excoriating investigation (read in full here).

In December last year, a surprise announcement was made in a local newspaper about a previously unheralded Greater Manchester Police investigation: Codenamed Operation Hexagon, it had, by then the force says, been running for around fifteen months. 

Also included in the Review is the nature and extent to which adults had inappropriate access to children, and young people resident in children’s homes in the Borough, putting them at risk of harm. It will also look at the extent to which historical actions of Oldham Council and employment records have been adequately investigated in the case of what are termed as known offenders, previously employed within the public sector.

One such known individual is jailed Rochdale grooming leader, Shabir Ahmed, whom worked at Oldham Council until 2005. An insider says that the report will identify some council failings in this regard, but no child is known to have come to harm as a result.

The framework of the review says ‘particular reference’ will be made to concerns that statutory agencies were ‘aware of this abuse, failed to respond appropriately to safeguard the children and subsequently covered up these failings’.

The Review team’s report is ‘owned’ by the Mayor’s office, Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Upon completion, it will be published by them, following the pattern of the Rochdale and South Manchester (Operation Augusta) Strand that was made public at a press conference in January, 2020. Messrs. Newsam and Ridgeway’s efforts were, justifiably, widely acclaimed for an exceptionally thorough, excoriating investigation (read in full here).

The Oldham Strand of the Assurance Review was brought about by the then Leader of Oldham Council, Sean Fielding, and Henri Giller, Chair of Oldham Child Safeguarding Partnership, who wrote jointly to the Mayor and Jane Shuttleworth, Chair of The Greater Manchester Safeguarding Standards Board to request a merging of the Council’s own investigations into the wider Independent Review being conducted by two of the country’s leading experts in this field, Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgeway.

This is what GMP’s ACC Maboob Hussain had to say at the time:

“The safeguarding of vulnerable victims was treated as a priority, and this involved ensuring that any criminality that was identified, past or present was investigated and where the evidence allowed these have been placed before the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration,” he wrote.

“The GMP investigations have not been limited by parameters and have increased throughout the duration of our enquiries.

“Clearly, we will need to wait for the publication of the report to fully understand any wider implications and will ensure the appropriate organisational response to matters disclosed is put in place.

“I hope you will be reassured through the Operation which has already been established by ACC Bailey that any matters which are disclosed as part of the independent review are being progressed by Greater Manchester Police prior to any formal publication.”

Following the Manchester Evening News article, GMP put out a second press statement. These are the words of ACC Bailey:

“Following reports of correspondence between Councillor Howard Sykes and ACC Hussain, I would like to make further comment, which may help to clarify certain points and prevent inaccurate speculation.

“In August 2019, Op Hexagon was established by Greater Manchester Police, as the policing response to work already on-going between GMP and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, and has acted as the joint Gold Group for both police and council activity. This related to allegations that had been made on social media, concerning a range of issues involving named individuals.

“Those initial allegations did involve concerns of child welfare and safeguarding, but also a number of other allegations of criminal activities. Due to this, GMP therefore broadened the scope of the investigation to include any and all allegations of criminality [Emphasis added].

“As the Gold lead for the operation I have been keen to ensure that any and all allegations of criminal activity are investigated – primarily to ensure that potential victims immediately receive the appropriate support, but also recognising the wider public interest. I can say that Op Hexagon remains on-going, where the evidence threshold for identified criminal offences has been met they have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, to date this has not included any offences relating to CSE or the safeguarding of any children.

“As part of Operation Hexagon we have been supportive of the independent inquiry requested by Oldham Council and managed by the Deputy Mayor.”

In November, 2020 an article was published on this website following an intensive and long-running journalistic investigation. Headlined ‘Get The White Vote Angry‘ it forensically deconstructed the Miah allegations of a long-running wide-scale ‘cover-up’ of child sexual exploitation by police, council and partner agencies (read in full here). It is expected, and confirmed by a well placed source, that the final outcome of the Assurance Review will uphold those findings in almost every respect. Much of it is unarguable, in any event.

An update on the Assurance Review was provided to Oldham’s Full Council by its new Leader, Cllr Arooj Shah, on 14th July, 2021. It is a four minute speech well worth viewing:

But Raja Miah, and the far right platforms with which he is now indelibly associated, as a result of more recent and adverse regional and national press coverage, stay glued to their own fact-free narrative and began a persistent, mendacious smear campaign against its author. Absent of challenge, cogent or otherwise, to any of the article’s key points and supporting evidence set out in the clearest of terms. 

The wider press coverage only came about as a result of Sean Fielding losing both his seat in the Chamber and position as Leader of Oldham Council, at the local elections in May 2021, which sent out shock waves across the political spectrum. The vicious smearing campaign fronted by Raja Miah and his close associates within the Failsworth Independent Party (the FIPs) and the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth Party (the POOS), all very strong proponents of the CSE ‘cover-up’ narrative (read more here), had claimed a very high profile scalp.

The local, regional and national press had steered well clear of the controversial topic and Operation Hexagon was, it seems, simply lost in the maelstrom.

For the past two weeks or so, beginning on 13th July, 2021 updates had been sought from both GMP and Oldham Council press offices by Neil Wilby. The fact that there had been just a single update in an investigation of such public significance, and running for just short of two years, defies belief. As did the preparedness of the media to look the other way in the face of the town’s reputation, and those of all its leading politicians, being repeatedly trashed by a relatively small group of discontented activists, some of them ludicrously positioning themselves as ‘child sex abuse campaigners’.

Squeezing out information regarding Operation Hexagon is proving to be an arduous task and both press offices clearly hope that fobbing off, and passing the buck, is the most efficacious prescription. But, as a journalist and investigator, a useful competency is to develop a knack for classifying documents or statements as having the requisite ring of truth, or otherwise. Part training, part instinct and part experience. They all play a part. As does prior knowledge of the person, or organisation, making it and, of course, their relevant history.

Those dealing routinely with GMP, for example, know what an ordeal obtaining even routine information can be. Although, on the credit side, those making press enquiries or freedom of information requests, almost invariably, are treated courteously and respectfully. 

Oldham Council, after a struggle, said that there were no updates and referred the press enquiry across to GMP. They did however confirm that the Operation Hexagon Gold Group included three of its officers. This is the Council’s statement in full: 

“Operation Hexagon is a GMP-led operation, but meetings are attended by our council officers as part of the wider Community Safety and Cohesion partnership.

“Council officers that routinely attend those meetings – i.e. the Gold or Silver Groups – are Rebekah Sutcliffe (Strategic Director of Communities and Reform); Gerard Jones (Managing director of Children and Young People) and Neil Consterdine (Assistant Director of Youth, Leisure and Communities).

“Relevant elected Members are briefed as appropriate to be given significant updates from the operation. As per our previous email, formal updates aren’t brought to Full Council meetings unless there would be a material impact on Council business”.

GMP were approached on two matters: The question of an update and what appears to be an undeclared conflict of interest regarding Miss Sutcliffe: Her father, Howard Sutcliffe, a retired vicar, is said to have a long association, friendship with Raja Miah, dating back to the latter’s role in the Peacemaker project launched in the wake of the Oldham riots in 2001.

It has since emerged that as part of his commendable community cohesion role in Oldham, Mr Crowther may have had a supervisory role over Daddy Ahmed, during the time the latter worked for the Council. No wrongdoing by Mr Sutcliffe, or his daughter, is either expressed or implied, beyond the fact that the Gold Commander of Hexagon should have been informed of such associations and a decision reached as to whether public confidence in the investigation could be maintained in those circumstances. 

Nick Bailey thinks otherwise. He batted the conflict question back to Oldham Council. A GMP spokeswoman said “It [Hexagon] is an on-going operation, and no statements are currently planned’. That was on 15th July, 2021. It follows that Rebekah Sutcliffe should also have brought such matters to the attention of her Oldham Council colleagues when accepting the nomination to sit on the Gold Group. The Council’s press office have been asked for yet another statement dealing with this specific point. She does, of course, have history for similar misdemeanours having faced a police watchdog investigation in 2014 for not declaring a personal interest and her intimate relationship with a fellow senior officer (read here). The officer in question, Paul Rumney, is now her life partner. Rumney’s tenure as Head of Professional Standards at GMP was permanently mired in controversy and alleged ‘cover-up’ during a very turbulent period for a police force that is now in Special Measures.

The GMP press office was contacted again on 22nd July, 2021 as Miah continued to make outrageous and highly damaging posts on the Recusant Nine platform. The latest included the exposing of the young children of a serving police inspector to, potentially, serious harm. Not to mention other children and staff at their school. The safeguarding issue was very clear. As are the incorrigible rantings of an out-of-control madman. The request for an update on Hexagon was repeated. Again the response, in the late afternoon, was swift and to the point: “As previously discussed, there is currently no update on Operation Hexagon. Should there be a significant update, we will let you know”.

Just after noon on the following afternoon (almost six hours after the arrest), the press office were in contact again to say: “Please find below as requested, an update for your attention. As you can appreciate, I wasn’t in a position to confirm anything until the below had taken place.  

A 48 year old man has been arrested today (23/07/21) on suspicion of Racially Aggravated Public Order and Malicious Communications in Tameside. 

It’s in connection with a series of articles posted on social media.

The man is currently assisting police with their inquiries.

GMP will always take reports of this nature seriously, and investigate every line of inquiry.

Less than two hours later, the press office issued a further statement:

A 48 year old man arrested today (Friday 23 July 2021) on suspicion of Racially Aggravated Public Order and Malicious Communications in Tameside, has been bailed with conditions, pending further inquiries.

In every email, to and from the GMP press office, Operation Hexagon was in the subject line and it is clear from the string that the updates sought were about Hexagon and the statements given were about the same investigation.

One of the local newspapers, The Oldham Times (a better title might be ‘Behind The Times’), alerted no doubt by Neil Wilby’s Twitter feed, where the arrest was exclusively reported, dangerously headlined Raja Miah’s arrest as though it was in connection with child sexual exploitation. This has, understandably, caused consternation to Miah and his supporters, not least as the body text of the article makes it clear what the suspicion of the offences leading to the arrest actually was, according to GMP: racially aggravated public order and malicious communications.

It is understood that GMP are also investigating the suspicion of stalking and harassment allegations from one of the complainants against Miah, but it is not known if questions were put to Miah in that regard. Those alleged offences do not appear in any of the press office statements, but they do feature in communications between at least one of the complainants and one of the detectives attached to the case.

Over the weekend, GMP press office was contacted again regarding alleged bail breaches by Miah and the impact this was clearly having on at least one of the complainants against him. Separate reports had been made to detectives by complainants.

Unusually, the request received neither acknowledgement nor response from GMP. They have been pressed again to provide a statement in these terms:

“The 48 year old male from Tameside continues to [appear to] breach his bail conditions, [allegedly] encourages others to stalk and harass, and persists in issuing threats. Including against Greater Manchester Police and journalists.

“My understanding is that D/Sgt [redacted] has received further evidence of the [alleged] bail breaches from one of the affected persons since the below email was sent to you on Saturday evening.

“In the absence of confirmation of arrest, may I most respectfully request a statement from Gold as to how and why a metropolitan police force is allowing itself to be pushed around and humiliated in this way?”

The deadline for response from GMP press office passed at noon on Thursday 30th July, 2021. With still no acknowledgement or statement forthcoming almost a week later. It is understood that the Miah investigation is being led by Supt Colette Rose. The Territorial Commander covering Oldham’s Q Division is C/Supt Rachael Harrison.

This is a developing story. Oldham Council are still maintaining that there is nothing to report on Hexagon.  A proposition that an independent, reasonable, fair minded person might find very difficult to believe?

On 30th July, 2021, Raja Miah canvassed his supporters to complain to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over an Operation Hexagon headline in The Oldham Times that, in his view, was offensive. That has caused an issue with IPSO as it appears to clash with their regulatory framework (read here). They have written, in neutral terms, to those complainants to explain the position.

In 2018, Miah complained to IPSO over the Manchester Evening News coverage of the huge operational failings of the two free schools, and substantial financial irregularities.  The published findings can be read here. It does not make good reading for the man from Mossley.

That excoriating outcome may, of course, have been a factor in using subordinates to make the latest complaints on his behalf. In a familiar juxtaposition, he now claims that they were made entirely independent of him. IPSO are likely to disagree with him on that point.

Page last updated at 0845hrs on Wednesday 4th August, 2021

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Photo credit: Twitter

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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