Has Horizon claim disappeared into the sunset?

In the week that marked the tenth anniversary of the conviction of Robin Garbutt, there have been three noteworthy developments, with a fourth to follow on shortly with the handing down of a Court of Appeal judgment, in a connected matter, on Friday 23rd April, 2021 at the Royal Courts of Justice: The Post Office Horizon software scandal that has led to a large number of former postmasters and postmistresses having convictions quashed.

I was present at all four days of the hearing of those appeals in March, 2021 writes Neil Wilby. Principally to observe what effect, if any, the outcome would have on the murderer’s long standing claim of innocence.

Garbutt was convicted on 19th April, 2021, at Teesside Crown Court, of murdering his postmistress wife, Diana. She was bludgeoned to death as she lay, apparently, sleeping in her bed in the living quarters above Melsonby Village Shop and Post Office in North Yorkshire (read more here).

A depressingly poor investigation by North Yorkshire Police had followed the murder (read more here) but there was still enough probative evidence presented for a jury to return a 10-2 majority verdict.

A miscarriage of justice campaign was formed soon afterwards by two relatives of Garbutt’s, his sister Sallie Wood and brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn, and an unsuccessful appeal was made to the Court of Appeal. Three law lords were emphatic that the conviction was safe.

Three applications have subsequently made to the Criminal Case Review Commission by Garbutt’s legal team. The ones made in 2015 and 2017 were unsuccessful. A third was made in December, 2019 amid a blaze of publicity (read more here). Much of it due to the efforts a later addition to the campaign team, Jane Metcalfe, a close friend of one of Garbutt’s life partners before he met, and later married, Diana.

Regrettably, Jane has been exposed regularly for what might be charitably termed as ‘decorating the truth’, her enthusiasm for winning Robin’s freedom blinding her, seemingly, to the stark reasons why the village shopkeeper remains a guest on the Category A wing of HMP Frankland (read more here).

Earlier this week, the press office at the CCRC confirmed that the third Garbutt application remains ‘under review’ and no decision, provisional or otherwise, has been communicated to the legal team representing Garbutt. They are solicitor, Martin Rackstraw, and Jim Sturman QC. Responsible for all three CCRC applications.

The reason for that enquiry was a post on the ‘Robin Garbutt Official’ website dated 8th April, 2021. It appeared to indicate that there has been some movement in terms of the CCRC making findings on that third application.

The post is attributed to Mark Stilborn, but easily recognised, in any event, by its muddled style and familiar syntax errors.

As is the the apparent failure to take on board the size and nature of both the evidential and legal hurdles that a CCRC applicant faces by way of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1995. A comment that could also safely be applied to Jane Metcalfe and Sallie Wood.

None of them have grasped that, for Garbutt’s conviction to be deemed unsafe, there has to be a reversal of the jury’s verdict, amplified forcefully by the trial judge; the ruling of the Court of Appeal; and the two previous decisions by the CCRC. All of whom found that the story of an armed robber (or robbers) who murdered Diana with a rusty iron bar, some hours before venturing downstairs armed with a gun (but not the piece of rusty metal), emptying the safe and till in the shop, leaving Robin unharmed and immediately free to raise the alarm, beyond belief.

Much of the publicity that accompanied the third CCRC application featured a new ground of appeal upon which the Garbutt campaign team pinned great hope: The aforementioned Horizon software was to blame for cash shortfalls identified during the murder trial by two expert forensic accounting witnesses. It undermines the prosecution case fatally, they say.

Now it doesn’t even rate a mention in the most recent case update, posted by the same campaign leaders who were so vociferous upon the subject just a year ago. To those adjacent to this case, including the author of this piece, that comes as no surprise at all: If robbers emptied the safe of £16,310, a sum that Garbutt told the jury tallied with the shop and post office accounts, it seems inconceivable that he now claims a software glitch has a bearing on his guilt.

The third development comes via a response to a recent freedom of information request. It is reproduced in full here:

“I am writing in response to your email received by Post Office Limited on 23 March, which I am dealing with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”).  
 
In your email you have requested the following information: 
 
Please disclose the following information by way of the Freedom of 
Information Act, 2000. 
 
1. The number of written complaints made by the Sub-Postmistress of 

Melsonby Post Office, and received by POL, where the terms ‘software faults’ 
or ‘Horizon’ or ‘shortfall’ formed part of the text of such complaints.  
 
2. Alternatively, the number of telephone complaints, where POL’s record of 

those complaints includes those same terms mentioned in para 1. above. 
 
3. The relevant period is 1st January, 2009 until 22nd March, 2010. 

 
4. A copy of the ‘Known Error Log’, in issue by Post Office Limited at 31st 

March, 2010. This document, which recorded faults in Fujitsu’s Horizon 
software, has been referred to repeatedly in proceedings at the Court of 
Appeal Criminal this week (commencing 22nd March, 2021). 
 
The difficulties in respect of passage of time, and the consequent possibility 
of data weeding, are recognised. It is hoped that, by keeping the request as 
compact as possible, this may assist the location of the information or in 
establishing that none existed. 
 
Whilst FOIA requests are, generally, to be regarded as applicant and motive 

blind, POL is aware of my journalistic interest in this particular sub-post 
office and its history. I am, of course, grateful to POL for past assistance and 
hope that this request can be fulfilled as efficiently and with the same co-
operation. 
 
Response

Post Office does not differential between complaints, general enquiries or notifications made in writing and those made by telephone by Postmasters.  We confirm that we do have a log covering the period you have identified, however none of the entries match the criteria you have provided. 

Regarding the additional request for a copy of the “Known Error Log” that you sent to us, following our acknowledgement letter, we will respond to this by 26th April.

Information Rights Manager 
Post Office Limited  – Information Rights Team 
20 Finsbury Street 
London EC2Y 9AQ ”

The obvious conclusion drawn from such disclosure is that Melsonby Post Office raised no complaints about cash shortfalls or Horizon software faults. No such faults were raised by Garbutt’s defence team at trial, or at the Court of Appeal, or in their previous two CCRC applications.

That may well be why this ‘new’ ground of application has disappeared into the sunset. Robin’s campaign team has been asked to provide clarification on this point. They have never taken up right of reply, previously. Preferring news outlets with a less searching and more accommodating approach to their claims.

Page last updated: Thursday 22nd April, 2021 at 1655 hours

Photo Credit: York Press

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.

© 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.

Line of Duty – review of episode 4

Wow! That was Jed Mercurio and television drama at their finest.

Keeping up with the storyline

Where to start? Because with Line of Duty plots it is often not ‘at the very beginning’. We leave that to Julie Andrews and Sound of Music.

Indeed, for this week’s review the closing scene is a good starting point. It left millions of viewers agog and social media in meltdown. AC-12’s all-action Temporary Detective Inspector, Steve Arnott, eventually receives the report from the forensic tear-up of Police Sergeant Farida Jatri’s home. As expected by most viewers and fans, the newly promoted Temporary Detective Superintendent Joanne Davidson’s fingerprints are prolific, exposing Jo’s lies about the relationship between herself and the exquisite Farida (I’m in love with her, too).

My instinctive reaction was that it was either Anne-Marie Gillis (see my review of episode 1 here) or rogue Detective Sergeant, John Corbett, (see episode 2 and 3 reviews here and here) which only served to demonstrate how an hour of Line of Duty can seriously addle the brain.

A second viewing of the episode, and many more of that closing drama, may yet rule out Corbett. The clues ‘nominal‘ and ‘not on the internal police database‘ point away from the now deceased detective sergeant.

By way of explanation, a nominal is, in policing terms, usually a person about whom information is held on a Police National Computer (PNC) nominal record. Primarily, convictions and cautions. There is no distinction, within that description, between shoplifter or murderer. Although the latter would, most likely, carry a marker or a flag. Alerting an officer mining the PNC as to the class of offender and any attendant risks associated in dealing with him or her. Particularly in relation to known use of weapons. Other reasons for being on the PNC can include being reprimanded, warned or arrested over a recordable offence. That is to say, one that is indictable (for example rape, armed robbery, murder) or can be tried either in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court and, generally, carries a prison sentence.

So, the search for the mystery person in the AC-12 file, one might think, is limited to convicted persons, or previously involved in an investigation of some seriousness, or of interest to the security services. The nominal is not, seemingly, currently serving in the police force, but is plainly well known to Supt. Hastings.

It is not revealed whether T/DI Arnott previously knew of this person before the database search. That could open up possibilities that it may be a criminal (or terrorist) known to Ted from his earlier career with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The BAFTA-contending look on Detective Constable Chloe Bishop’s face suggests that viewers are going to be rocked off their chairs when the identity of Jo’s blood relative is made known.

It might also indicate that the revelation will not assist Ted in deflecting the impending retirement forced upon him earlier in the piece by the wily, world-weary deputy chief constable, Andrea Wise. Hastings – an officer with perenially forthright views – blames Chief Constable Philip Osborne for the decision to drastically reduce the number of anti-corruption officers in Central Police, and, in doing so, tagging him a “bare-faced liar”. With good cause for those that cast their mind back to Series 1. Osborne’s lying led to Steve Arnott leaving the unit to which he was attached (counter terrorism), headed up by DCI Osborne as he was then, following the shooting without warning of Karim Ali. The bent chief constable is many people’s favourite to be ‘H’.

Jo Davidson has a Scottish accent that might point to the deceased Organised Crime Gang (OCG) leader and paedophile, Tommy Hunter, later known as Alex Campbell in police witness protection, from whence he was reported to have died in the notorious ambush scene at the opening of series 2 (or did he perish, some now ask?).

Others touted by fans and viewers include Jackie Laverty, murdered during Line of Duty Series 1 and whose body, or parts or traces thereof, have popped up in Seasons 5 and 6. Laverty was a money launderer for the OCG and had an affair with bent cop, DCI Tony Gates, who was present when her throat was fatally cut. A method of execution favoured by the OCG as Carl Banks and John Corbett also found to their cost.

Gates was framed for the Laverty murder by the OCG; blackmailed by Tommy Hunter; relentlessly taunted by a much younger Ryan Pilkington; but was cleared of the murder before walking into a truck. ‘In the line of duty’, reported Steve Arnott at the time.

The body count increased significantly in Episode 4, including yet another female authorised firearms officer (AFO). This tragedy occurred during a dramatic hi-jack of a prison van carrying Arnott and a surprisingly tanned-looking Jimmy Lakewell, a crooked criminal defence lawyer who took bribes from the OCG, last seen taking his final breaths as a garrotte held by OCG henchman, Lee Banks, choked the life out of him. Lakewell is, of course, a veteran from Series 4 who set middle-aged female pulses racing.

The death throes were played out before Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells, currently on remand in HMP Blackthorn and, ostensibly, visiting Jimmy in his cell for a brew. It was a warning from the OCG, if one were needed, of the fate meted out to those who either rat on the OCG, or their continued existence presents an ongoing threat to these ruthless criminals and the bent cops in their midst.

The shoot-out between the OCG and Central Police, in broad daylight on a main road beneath a trunk road bridge, was pure television drama. With the permitted artistic licence that goes with such scenes. The sniper in the the third floor window of an adjacent building was such an embellishment, as was the acrobatic (or pained contortionist) James Bond-class shot from a 9mm Glock that took him out. Take a commendation, and a nod to your time in the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Steve Arnott. After a minute’s silence for another fallen AFO. RIP PC Ruby Jones.

The use of Stingers to halt the armed police convoy accompanying the prison van again points to serious police involvement in the OCG. Normally deployed in authorised police pursuits, this specialist equipment requires officers to be trained in its use and injuries during deployment are not uncommon.

Last week’s prediction, in these columns, that PC Ryan Pilkington, the OCG’s most junior but callous, fearless man on the inside, would be reined in by the police, or rubbed out by the crime bosses, bombed spectacularly.

Pilks is not only stalking her, he is now openly ‘running’ DCI Davidson at Hillside Lane Police Station. For emphasis, using a gun pressed firmly to the back of her head outside the plush, fortress property she visits to make, or attempt to make, encrypted communications with the OCG hierarchy. It, increasingly, looks as though she doesn’t actually live there. Which would explain why the framed ‘mother and daughter’ style photograph, on the cabinet in the main living area, ended up drenched by a glass of wine hurled through the air by Jo. Placed there as a reminder that she is now firmly under the control of the OCG and the reason why. Davidson has previously told her ex-lover, Farida, that she had no family. Which, of course, may yet turn out to be another of an increasing number of lies she has told.

Following the encounter with the sidearm, and the accompanying words of advice from Pilkington, Jo reversed her decision to transfer him out of ‘The Hill’. It appears that the OCG needs Ryan to be there to monitor progress of the Gail Vella murder enquiry, codenamed Operation Lighthouse, and to watch with whom Miss Davidson is getting into bed with, literally.

Speaking of which, the wily Kate Fleming continues to successfully play all sides off against the middle, but for how long? The blossoming friendship, potential romance, is starting to hit a bump or two as DI Fleming begins to question what is going on between Jo and PC Pilkington.

During a scene in AC-12’s very own grubby pedestrian underpass, surprisingly well lit and litter-free, between Kate and Ted Hastings, a decision is taken by the war-torn superintendent, at the behest of the now back in favour detective inspector, to leave the armed and dangerous constable in-situ, rather than ‘bring him in’. The rationale, apparently absent of any recognisable risk assessment, being that Pilkington’s link to the OCG, and the high ranking corrupt officer, or policing body involved with it, would be broken otherwise – and valuable intelligence lost. She also raised the lack of probative evidence against him, so far, and Pilkington’s cool and confident demeanour under questioning.

Some burning questions

Is Tommy Hunter still alive and the ‘unknown user’ in the computer messaging?

It is a plausible theory and one I am running with for the moment. The slit throat method of execution lives on, since the first of that ilk, when Hunter ordered the murder of Jackie Laverty. One suspects the end of Jimmy Lakewell would have been so arranged but for the biometric traces it would have, inevitably, left afterwards in his prison cell.

It is likely that Lakewell will be found hanging in his cell, by an OCG-friendly prison officer, some time after Banks and Buckells have returned to their own accommodation in HMP Blackthorn.

The control exerted over Ryan Pilkington by the OCG, both in last season and this, would also support the theory. He was groomed as a serious and violent criminal, and very probably sexually abused by Hunter, from an early age. The iron grip the OCG still have over bent cops, and the sheer force of the attacks they are able to mount against authority, aided by crucial information from some of the most sensitive areas of Central Police, point to a very strong-minded, cunning and utterly ruthless character in charge. Tommy Hunter definitely matches those competencies and leadership qualities.

Is Superintendent Buckells still a contender as ‘H’

Nigel Boyle’s fine acting has been a plus point in the present season, but the character he plays does not appear bright enough – which may still be a Columbo-style act – or have enough seniority in an OCG group if he is subservient to a thug such as Banks. The fact that he is ‘a twat’, as expounded by Jo Davidson, is not in doubt. Not least for accepting sexual favours for dropping charges. Buckells seems now to be an unlikely candidate as a criminal mastermind (‘H’), resembling much more a lazy, box ticking cop whose lack of attention to detail may inadvertently assist organised criminals. On a generous view, fooling round with persons of interest to the police, victims or suspects, may have given the OCG the leverage to blackmail him.

What or whose are the initials on Ian Buckells’ phone records

Line of Duty’s propensity for policing acronyms is well known. But none of those on the screen in the AC-12 interview room are recognisable as such. The best answers I have seen, by a considerable distance, are to be found on Den of Geek‘s brilliant Line of Duty blog: RGT could be ‘really great tits’, FAF could be ‘fit as f**k, NA ‘nice arse’. For BJL (………) the broad-minded are invited to insert their own answer. Or, like me, phone a younger friend more versed in those ways of the world.

What did Jimmy Lakewell reveal in the back of ambushed prison van?

If he did reveal information, it is likely be crucial in leading to the heart of the OCG – and ‘H’. In his interview in the Ac-12 interview room, after the ambush ordeal, Lakewell is at pains to say that he didn’t talk to Arnott in the back of the prison van, suggesting that he knows that there is a leak from Ac-12 to the OCG, and rejecting the offer of immunity and witness protection in return for what he knows. But that doesn’t discount him passing a note, or either of them writing in Steve’s pocket book (PNB for acronym and jargon enthusiasts). There has been speculation that the two spoke ‘off the record’, hinted at by knowing looks between the pair after Supt Hastings had left the room. But the savvy Lakewell might have correctly deduced that either the van, or DI Arnott (or both), were wired for sound.

Either way, the OCG did think that he had ‘ratted’ on the OCG – and paid the full price. The message from inside Central Police was that Lakewell had revealed something, even inadvertently.

Are Lee and Carl Banks related?

It has now been relegated to a matter of much less significance, but may assist Operation Lighthouse officers in solving the murder of journalist, Gail Vella. With so much action elsewhere in episode, the investigation seemed to be on slow burn. Although one interesting line was followed up by DI Fleming and Sgt Chris Lomax on ‘workshopped’, or modified, untraceable firearms. A ballistics link leads them to the guns used in the armed robbery on Hickey’s Bookmakers, which featured in the opening scenes of the current series. Banks, of course, is a common enough surname, but they are both members of the same OCG, with significant police records as serious, armed criminals. Brothers, cousins or another classic Jed Mercurio red herring?

Will the decision not to arrest Ryan Pilkington backfire?

Viewers and fans know about the murders of serving police officers (DS Corbett and PC Patel), an attempted murder of key witness, Terry Boyle, and the gun threat to Jo Davidson, so Pilkington is as dangerous as they come. Without factoring in other likely acts of extreme violence since, as a thirteen year old, he tried to cut off Steve Arnott’s fingers with a pair of industrial pliers in a classic tied to a chair in a derelict building torture scene. But Central Police, principally through the nous of Kate Fleming, only suspect his nefarious involvement with the car in the reservoir incident with Terry and Lisa.

The official police record shows that Ryan was commended for bravery as a result. Only Terry can tell a different tale and, knowing his life is likely to end soon afterwards, he is unlikely to go down the route of enlightening Central Police. For now, at least.

There is no police inkling, so far, that Corbett was slain by Pilkington. That may change, of course as the story unfolds over the closing episodes and OCG loose ends are tied together. But the Line of Duty body count is unlikely to remain static whilst he is at large. Those most at risk are likely to be carrying a warrant card.

Not least, because Ryan Pilkington was, even more seriously, one of the four machine-gun toting villains that carried out another armed convoy ambush at the start of Series 5, in which three AFO’s shot and one badly injured. John Corbett was one of the others.

Who will head up the merged and decimated AC-3, AC-9 and AC-12 units?

The announced re-appearance of Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael is very much welcomed in this quarter, and forecast in my preview piece prior to episode one (read here).

Anna Maxwell Martin is a sublime actress and one whose poker-faced AC-3 presence lit up the latter part of Series 5. The interviews with the, then, murder suspect, Ted Hastings, are enduring moments.

She is, not unoriginally, my hot favourite to land the new AC-3, AC-9, AC-12 supremo role with a twist in that particular tale (or tail) before this Line of Duty season is over.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over the concluding three episodes. Buckle (or Buckell) in again at 9pm tonight, BBC One.

Finally, a sincere thank you to all those who have read the previous four Line of Duty pieces on this website; proof-read, gently chided, offered corrections to syntax errors and said the kindest things about our common passion.

For me, it is a form of escapism from the serious side of my journalism and court reporting – and much harder work than I thought. But I enjoy every moment, and the fun and fellowship the Line of Duty brethren brings into an, otherwise, mostly dull lockdown life.

It is hoped this latest piece, offering a different to slant to the events on screen, entertains and informs in the same way as before.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 1835 hours

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.

Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Number of candidates set to contest Oldham elections drops to 95

With the local elections in the East Lancashire mill town less than three weeks away, the statutory list of wards, candidates, and their proposers and seconders, has been published by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (see here).

There are twenty wards in the Borough, and the Council, as part of its Publication Scheme, provides impressive in-depth profiles and statistics for each on its website (read here).

Ten different parties are represented (if Labour and Co-op, and the Labour Party, are counted as one) and a total of ninety-five candidates will go to the polls.

The two Labour parties, between them, field candidates in all twenty wards, as do the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats. The Green Party has eleven candidates; Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (the POOS) put up eight; there are five independents; Northern Heart UK has four; United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Reform UK and Failsworth Independent Party (the FIPs) all have two; Worker’s Party of Britain has just the one. Making up the total of ninety-five. In 2019, there were one hundred and two.

Labour

Zahid Chauhan (Alexandra); Elaine Taylor (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Islam (Chadderton North); Chris Goodwin (Chadderton South); Abdul Jabbar (Coldhurst); Basit Shah (Crompton); Liz Jacques (Failsworth East); Sean Fielding (Failsworth West); Kyle Phythian (Hollinwood); Ur-Rehman Ateeque (Medlock Vale); Mick Harwood (Royton North); Amanda Chadderton (Royton North); Connor Green (Saddleworth North); Stephanie Shuttleworth (Saddleworth South); Ken Rustidge (Saddleworth West & Lees); Cath Ball (St.James); Imran Yousaf (St.Marys); Syed Ali (Shaw); Ros Birch (Waterhead); Fida Hussain.

Conservatives

Jonathan Ford (Alexandra); Sharif Miah (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Jahan (Chadderton North); Robert Barnes (Chadderton South); David Cahill (Coldhurst); Lewis Quigg (Crompton); Shefur Miah (Failsworth East); Jawaad Hussain (Failsworth West); Michele Stockton (Hollinwood); Sahr Abid (Medlock Vale); Dave Arnott (Royton North); Ian Bond (Royton North); Luke Lancaster (Saddleworth North); Max Woodvine (Saddleworth South); Anthony Cahill (Saddleworth West & Lees); Beth Sharp (St.James); Mujibur Rahman (St.Marys); Tom Lord (Shaw); Sajjad Hussain (Waterhead); Mohammed Rahman (Werneth).

Liberal Democrats

Martin Dinoff (Alexandra); Barbara Beeley (Chadderton Central); Katie Gloster (Chadderton North); Joe Beeston (Chadderton South); Mick Scholes (Coldhurst); Diane Williamson (Crompton); Lynne Thompson (Failsworth East); Richard Darlington (Failsworth West); Brian Lord (Hollinwood); Rachel Pendlebury (Medlock Vale); Russ Gosling (Royton North); Ken Berry (Royton North); Garth Harkness (Saddleworth North); Kevin Dawson (Saddleworth South); Mark Kenyon (Saddleworth West & Lees); Joe Gloster (St.James); Pat Lord (St. Marys); Howard Sykes (Shaw); Linda Dawson (Waterhead); Keith Pendlebury (Werneth).

Green Party

Andrea Valencia-Chiverra (Alexandra); Jess Mahoney (Chadderton Central); Daniel Clayton (Chadderton North); Jean Betteridge (Coldhurst); Lina Valencia-Shaw (Crompton); Jim Stidworthy (Royton North); Kathryn Banawich (Saddleworth North); Brian Banawich (Saddleworth South); Roger Pakeman (St. James); Miranda Meadowcroft (St.Marys); Freedom Solaiman (Waterhead).

Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth

Ronald Bailey (Hollinwood); Mark Birchall (Medlock Vale); Paul Goldring (Royton North); Gary Tarbuck (Saddleworth North); Simon Hodgson (Saddleworth South); Paul Shilton (Saddleworth West & Lees); Amoy Crooks (St. James); Mark Hince (Shaw).

Independents

Tracy Woodward (Chadderton North); Montaz Ali Azad (Coldhurst); Warren Bates (Failsworth West); Helen Bishop (Saddleworth South); Hussain Aftab (St. Marys).

Northern Heart UK

Jack Dickenson (Chadderton Central); Cath Jackson (Chadderton South); Rob Vance (Crompton); Anne Fiander-Taylor (Royton North); Paul Taylor (Waterhead).

UKIP

Bernard Akin (Chadderton South); Anthony Prince (Royton North).

Reform UK

Colin Jones (Royton North); Chris Green (Saddleworth North).

Failsworth Independent Party

Neil Hindle (Failsworth East); Mark Wilkinson (Failsworth West).

Worker’s Party of Britain

Lisa Roddy (Chadderton South).

Three wards have six candidates contesting each seat; Royton South, Saddleworth North and Saddleworth South. At the other end of the scale, Werneth has just three.

Four councillors are not standing for re-election: Fazlul Haque (Labour, Chadderton North), Steve Hewitt (Labour, Saddleworth West and Lees), John Hudson (Conservative leader, Saddleworth South) and Vita Price (Labour, Waterhead). Forty councillors are not on the ballot papers, as their terms of office do not end until either 2022 or 2023.

Cllr Hudson retires after 50 years of service to the community. Since 2000, as a Borough councillor and as Mayor of Oldham in 2013/14. He was awarded an OBE in 2017 by the Queen for charitable and political service.

This is the present composition of the Council:

Turnout, in the aftermath of a virus epidemic, is even more of an unknown in this election year than ever. In 2019, 32.95% went out to vote.

The election count in Oldham will take place in various rooms around the Civic Centre and Sports Centre overnight on 6th/7th May, 2021, in order to maintain COVID-safe conditions.

The Mayoral count will take place on Saturday 8th May, 2021.

Returning Officer is Dr Carolyn Wilkins, the Council’s chief executive.

Page last updated: Saturday 17th April, 2021 at 1445 hours

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.

Picture credits:

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Election by stealth?

Following the publication of an article on this website on 13th April, 2021 (read here), more information and tip-offs than usual resulted. It was the regular mixed bag of rare nuggets, plenty of hearsay, false trails and axe-grinding. A journalist’s stock in trade, writes Neil Wilby.

Amongst them was an innocuous looking link to a website belonging to a political party completely unknown to me, with a very limited amount of narrative accompanying it – and with what turned out to be a plausible, but mistaken, assumption.

It looked one for the ‘intel file’, except that the source is well respected and usually ‘on the money’. So it proved, yet again. Although not in the way either of us could have expected.

The link provided by the informant led to the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom website (abbreviated, by them, to ADF). A quick search uncovered that its headquarters are in Oldham, no less, a town from which I have been reporting for over a year now (read more here about how I became involved).

Not a single mention of this political party has been heard during all that time. From anyone. The siting of their HQ was, obviously news to me, also.

ADF occupy offices in Shaw Road; formerly housing the United Kingdom Independence Party, more widely known, of course, as UKIP. A short time later, it became apparent why.

On the ‘People’ section of the ADF website, my attention was immediately drawn to three of the seven biographies: Dr Teck Khong, Mike Hookem and, most particularly, Paul Goldring. His name is already familiar and, in fact, features in at least one article elsewhere on this website (read here).

Dr Khong has a high profile on Twitter (over 17,000 followers) and stood as a Conservative candidate in Bradford North at the 2005 General Election and as a UKIP candidate in Harborough in the 2017 renewal (he lost his deposit as party support collapsed nationally). He has a colourful background and, in the past, been accused of holding anti-Muslim sentiments (read more here). Beyond commenting below an article titled “How modern Islam has made UK citizens homeless in their own homes” (read more here), there appears to be no formal finding, as such.

Mike Hookem, who had a military and strong Labour Party background before defecting to UKIP in 2008 and becoming a leading light in that party, is, of course, most widely known for ‘an altercation’ with a fellow Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2016 which left Stephen Woolfe, another UKIP elected representative, in hospital. Hookem denied any wrongdoing.

More controversially, in 2015 he supported another UKIP MEP, Bill Etheridge – who posed on Facebook with a golliwog and, separately, quoted from Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech – in Etheridge’s bid to run the party, following the departure of TV personality and UKIP founding member, Nigel Farage. Hookem became Etheridge’s running mate.

In the same year, The Independent newspaper reported that Hookem had claimed a “migrant” pulled a gun on him and threatened him at the port of Dunkirk in northern France. Police later said the suspected gunman was a British gangster.

A fourth man on the ADF website is a former West Yorkshire Police officer, of whom I was aware for reasons other than politics: Stephen Place. Mainly, because he wrote a superb, graphic, moving, three-part blog about his first-hand experience at the 1985 Bradford City Fire Disaster and a book about policing in Bradford, ‘Dodge City: A copper’s tale‘. A subject about which I know a great deal, having spent days and weeks on end at the city’s Magistrates’ and Crown Courts.

He stood as a UKIP candidate in the Bradford South constituency at the 2017 General Election (also lost his deposit). Memorable to me, insofar as Gerry Sutcliffe, who still supports a miscarriage of justice campaign to which I am very adjacent (read more here), held that same seat for 26 years. Gerry retired from Parliament in 2015. Stephen Place also held high office in UKIP, being their Home Affairs spokesman.

Paul Goldring is standing in the Oldham local elections on May 6th as a candidate for the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth party (the POOS), whose behaviour before and during the current local election is, most charitably, described as troubling: One of its leading lights, former soldier Gary Tarbuck, featured in a recent, shameful episode where a crude attempt to discredit Labour Party leaders, and the Muslim community in one of the most deprived wards of Oldham, spectacularly backfired (read in full here).

Goldring stood as a candidate in the same Royton North ward in 2019, whilst he was Chair of UKIP in Oldham. Now living in the area, having moved to Oldham from Telford around 6 years ago, he finished third in the polls.

In the circular way that journalists have, contact was made with Dr Khong first. But he didn’t respond (and still hasn’t) to these questions:

(i) Is Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth part of ADF?

(ii) What position does Paul Goldring hold in ADF?

Soon afterwards, similar questions were put to Mike Hookem. He quickly replied that the POOS ‘are not aligned to ADF’. He was less forthcoming, however, about Goldring’s position in ADF, stating, eventually, and after being pressed, that ‘he [Goldring] is a member’. Hookem had been sent a screenshot from their website that suggested, very strongly, that Paul is rather more than that. As does his previous senior role within UKIP.

These questions were then put to 68 year-old Paul Goldring:

(i) If I may ask, what is your position/title in ADF? You sit squarely [in an image I had attached] between Teck and Mike Hookem, so, one assumes, very senior? Thanks.

(ii) A second, obvious, question is, if you are standing as a candidate for Proud Of Oldham and Saddleworth in the May elections, what is connection between them and ADF Party?

The exchange concluded thus: “I’m writing up a piece overnight and would very much appreciate a prompt response to the above questions. Thank you. My press credentials are attached”.

All very polite and reasonable, one might say. But confronted, in the event, by a wall of silence. At the time, and since: That, of course, is Goldring’s (and Dr Teck’s) prerogative, as it is that of a journalist, and his or her readers, to draw inference from that. Not least from blocking such seemingly innocuous questions. Begging a question Royton voters will answer, of course; is he a fit and proper person to hold elected office if he is unable, or unwilling, to answer the simplest of questions about his political affiliations?

Regrettably, it is a trait common to others in their circle, such as the POOS Party Leader, Paul Errock. Whom, if he isn’t ignoring a straight question, answers a different one. Not least about his purported affinity for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (sometimes known as ‘Tommy Robinson’). Likewise, one of the Party’s other directing minds, thoroughly disgraced Raja Miah: When asked to back up his invariably ludicrous, hate-filled claims with evidence, none is ever forthcoming. The permanently spiteful output on his Recusant Nine Facebook and YouTube channels is the subject of numerous complaints, bans and removal of defamatory material.

Less reticent is Sarah Shilton, whom describes herself as POOS ‘Party Chairwoman/Treasurer’. After the Tarbuck/Miah/Coldhurst lies were exposed in the Absent of Evidence article, she posted:

 “Seriously guys, I hope he [Neil Wilby] sees this or someone sends it to him. Mental health is a serious subject and if someone is showing signs of mental health issues we should be offering help”. For emphasis, she added this NHS Helpline weblink. Mrs Shilton did not challenge any of the evidence meticulously laid out in that piece – and neither has anyone else, for that matter. Distasteful, ad hominem attack was the sole response. Apart from this, of course:

But that is the price a journalist pays in Oldham for confronting a contrived, race-baiting narrative with plain, old fashioned facts and evidence.

Tarbuck, to his credit, did not refer at any time to the racist incident on his own Facebook page, or support in any other visible way what was said and done in his name by Raja Miah. But it does not bode well that he failed to denounce what was written in his name, either. Or take up his right to reply on what is an episode that leaves his credibility badly dented.

It is also concerning, given the POOS non-stop barrage of insinuations against others in authority in Oldham, that he continues to pro-actively support a proven, deeply corrupt ex-Labour councillor, Montaz Ali Azad, whom having left that Party in disgrace is now standing as an independent candidate.

So, what are ADF and the POOS hiding? Why are the key players so shy about the Paul Goldring link?

(i) On his Facebook campaigning page, run within the POOS ambit, there is no mention at all of the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom Party. In the limited number of posts he makes, all very jolly one has to say, the link is concealed. The electorate, in effect, think they would be voting for one party and its policies, but it appears that it may yet be another.

(ii) He posted this in his election page on Facebook on 21st March, 2021 [emphasis added]:

“I just want to remind everybody that I am an independent candidate with Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth and we are not a whipped party. What does that mean? Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth councillors do not dance to anybody’s tune but that of the voters we were elected to represent. That means that we have no bosses but you. We answer to nobody but you. Nobody at Party HQ tells us what to think and what to do. So if there is a major issue in Royton North that is being discussed in the council then I will keep you informed. I will ask for your opinion. If necessary I will hold a ward [mini] referendum to establish what the ward majority want. I will be your councillor and I will answer emails, I will return phone calls. I will represent Royton North and not some outdated ideology. Want to meet me in person ? Let me know and as soon as Covid lets me I will meet with you.

(a) There is no mention of his apparent seniority within another ‘non-aligned’ political party. Or to whose tune he dances. ADF or the POOS?

(b) It is not clear as to which Party HQ he refers. Paul has at least two.

(c) On all the evidence so far, Goldring cannot count communication as a competency. There is no telephone number listed for ADF HQ. He has no contact details on his election page, such as mobile number and email address. In the unlikely event that he is elected on May 6th, 2021, they would be published on the Council’s website. It might strike the reader as extraordinary that no such details are available during the election campaign. The weblink on his Facebook page inviting questions to Paul Goldring, bizarrely, takes the inquisitive to the POOS Home page on their website. There are no contacts details there, either.

(d) I’d like to come and talk to you Paul, about this article, the ADF and the POOS. Preferably, whilst you are out campaigning. I’ll bring a cameraman.

(iii) Likewise, on the ADF website, there is no reference to Goldring standing as a candidate in the Oldham elections for a party (the POOS) they say is not aligned to them.

(iv) Is Paul Goldring’s recent spell as Chair of UKIP, and the fact that he appears to be based at what are now the ADF’s offices in Oldham, a blow to the POOS claim of ‘independence’ and their ‘centralist’ (sic) positioning as a party?

(v) UKIP’s one-time ‘consultant’, the aforementioned ‘Tommy Robinson’, campaigned in Oldham in May 2019, and riots ensued in the Limeside area, as his far-right supporters clashed with Muslims. Goldring was, it seems, UKIP Chair at that time. Yaxley-Lennon was jailed two months later over contempt of court. This related to his actions outside Leeds Crown Court during a ‘grooming gang’ trial that very nearly collapsed as a result. For some weeks, I had been covering a perverting the course of justice trial in Court 11, next door to the ‘grooming trial’, not long before the Yaxley-Lennon incident took place. Protests by the far-right had taken place in and around the court at that time and the atmosphere was highly charged, on occasions, and made the court precincts and concourses not a good place to be.

(v) Is it also a blow to the POOS claim that they do not have a far-right element to their membership or aims as a party? Many of Oldham’s knuckleheads, some unpleasant and criminal characters amongst them, have gravitated to the party and regard Raja Miah as their unassailable totem. He feeds them relentlessly (and himself by pimping donations to his Facebook platform) with a now totally discredited grooming gangs ‘cover-up’ narrative (read more here).

(vi) Or, is the embarrassment over the Goldring connection to the POOS, and discredited Raja Miah, an embarrassment to the future ambitions of Alliance for Democracy and Freedom as a ‘clean skin’?

Records at Companies House (read here) show that ADF was incorporated in September 2019 as The Democracy Party, using an address in Exeter. Mike Hookem was one of its two founding Directors and remains in post up to the present day. He had announced his departure from UKIP the previous month.

The Democracy Party changed its name to its present form in March, 2020. There is one other remaining Director, Keith Lonsdale, whose biography also appears on the ‘People’ page of the ADF website. Two other Directors have been appointed and resigned after brief spells in office.

Another ex-military man, with many other professional accomplishments, Lonsdale is based in Belfast. It is said on the website: “Keith has stood for local election and has held regional and national posts in a large political party. He has been politically homeless since 2018 and is keen to get this new party [ADF] off the ground”.

The un-named political party is, of course, UKIP. Which makes a clean sweep: Five out of five key players in ADF, all prominent in a party that became increasingly far right and appears now to only attract those of that ilk.

If that is why any, or all of them, left UKIP, then it should be important enough to post on the ADF website and/or have the record put straight in this article.

Paul Goldring and Dr Khong were offered right of reply, via Mike Hookem. He declined to provide an email address to which the draft article could be sent and indicated that Goldring and Khong would not be so doing, either. He offered no explanation at all for such a refusal.

Mr Hookem also has my telephone number and a call back is still awaited. In the meantime, readers and voters in the local elections can form their own judgement regarding the ADF/POOS silence and the peculiar juxtaposition of Mr Goldring, about whom all is clearly not what it seems.

But much more on that in the sequel to this piece.

A full list of wards and nominations published by the Council’s Returning Officer can be found (here). There is also a helpful party by party breakdown of candidates and other interesting statistical information relating to both the forthcoming and 2019 local elections in Oldham.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 0855 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook, Twitter.

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

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© 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.

‘Bare faced lies’

These are words uttered by Leader, Sean Fielding, during a tumultuous full meeting of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council on 7th November, 2019, writes Neil Wilby.

“Over the last few months there have been daily postings on social media about planning and historic safeguarding incidents.

“These allegations have been combined with a series of personal online attacks on councillors, residents, MPs and council officers, and often come from people with a clear political agenda.

“We will always take action where appropriate including the recently announced review into historic safeguarding. 

“Too often, however, the allegations and claims made online are bare faced lies designed purely to stoke fears and score political points.”

The session ended in chaos and the police were called to quell protestors in the public gallery. They were unedifying scenes. The person at the centre of them was Debbie Barratt-Cole, whose behaviour then, and subsequently, resulted in court proceedings and later visits to her home by police. She has, some might say, thankfully, now left the area to go and live in the south-west of the country ‘to start a new life’.

Although not named, the person to whom Cllr Fielding mainly alluded as the teller of ‘bare faced lies’ was a man from a neighbouring Borough: Raja MIAH, a long-term resident of the upmarket commuter village of Mossley.

Miah’s only recent connection to Oldham is as the founder and chief executive of a spectacularly failed enterprise, Collective Spirit Free School, over which there are still ongoing police investigations. There have already been other findings against those running the school, concerning grotesque safeguarding failures, including one instance of child sex abuse on the premises. A significant number of children’s lives were ruined – and many parents and teachers remain utterly despondent that Miah made himself very much wealthier from this disastrous enterprise, but went unpunished. He denies any wrongdoing.

He does not visit the town because he is unpopular and made unwelcome: On the last known occasion, it is said he was beaten up by Asian men outside a burger bar, over unevidenced and broad brush allegations, repeatedly made on his ‘Recusant Nine’ platform, inferring that their entire community was either perpetrating, or covering-up, child sex abuse – or running criminal cartels. Or both. No action was taken against the alleged perpetrators of the assault.

For the avoidance of doubt, violence is not condoned in any form by the author of this piece, however serious the provocation. The temptation for those affected to say ‘he got what was coming to him’ has to be resisted – and peaceful, lawful remedies sought.

Which is precisely what this column is about: ‘Bare faced lies‘ and identifying who tells them in the Boroughs of Oldham and Tameside. The reader can then make up their own mind as to whether Cllr Fielding was right, all along.

Starting with the Recusant Nine post on 6th April, 2020 (scroll down the page to the latest posts), a brief analysis of what is asserted by Miah will be inserted under an image of the post. Over time, based on past experience, a clear pattern should emerge. One of a ‘Walter Mitty’ character whose persistent, mendacious bare faced lies leave him entirely discredited.

6th April, 2021

A full and forensic deconstruction of this disgraceful, race-baiting post appears elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja MIAH has not repeated any of these allegations since that article headlined ‘Absent of evidence’ was published or referred to them on Facebook since.

In summary, these are the lies in this Recusant Nine offering:

(i) There is no council CSE ‘cover-up’. Quite the opposite, in fact. As set out in very considerable detail here. Fully supported by FACTS and EVIDENCE. 

(ii) There was no ‘HE KILLED MUSLIMS’ rumour. Except the one started by Miah himself.

(iii) There was no sharing of the ‘rumour’ by senior Council leaders and politicians. A point emphatically made by Jim McMahon MP in a quote provided for inclusion in that article.

(iv) Very few, if any, Bangladeshi members of Coldhurst are likely to have contacted Miah. (a) Firstly, because there was no ‘rumour’ (b) Secondly, because so many in that community deeply resent the constant smearing by MIAH of Asians in the town.

(v) There was no incitement to violence towards Gary Tarbuck. That is made up nonsense. Tarbuck, himself, has not posted anywhere on social media, since, that he feels threatened or afraid. Indeed he has has not referred to the visit to Coldhurst at all.

(vi) The police are intervening in this matter. But not in the way that MIAH expects.

(vii) No condemnation is required apart from the town utterly rejecting this latest pack of lies on the Recusant Nine platform.

(viii) Gary Tarbuck has never held elected office in Oldham. His ‘continuing to serve the town’ is yet another decoration of the truth.

(ix) A further deception by both Tarbuck and Miah is the omission of the fact that one of the independent councillors, with whom Gary was showing solidarity in Coldhurst, is corrupt ex-Cllr Montaz Ali Azad. Found guilty of a string of tax fraud and illegal immigrant offences in 2016. The penalties for those offences are not yet spent.

(x) On Tarbuck’s Facebook page, promoting his candidacy in forthcoming local elections, there is no mention of this incident or any fear that the ex-soldier may have as a result.

(xi) A source who lives on the same street as Montaz Ali Azad says that the deeply religious former councillor, and his family, dissociate themselves from the Miah/Tarbuck allegations as they offend Islam.

(xii) Another shameful day for Raja MIAH. How many more do we have to endure?

8th April, 2021

(i) Raja MIAH’s concept of evidence would differ markedly from that accepted by either the police or a court of law. As a journalist and court reporter, it is a topic upon which I am well informed. The assertion by him, and it is no higher than that, of an association between ‘Rusty Wheels’ and myself is another ‘bare faced lie’. 

(ii) Euan Stewart and Cllr Fielding are well able to speak for themselves. For the record, I have never spoken to Euan and have spoken to the Council Leader once in the past seven months, by telephone, and there have been a small number of emails. All transparent, on official business and, as such, subject to scrutiny. I have never met Sean Fielding, mainly due to lockdown constraints. It is inevitable that our professional paths will cross, sooner rather than later, as the epidemic restrictions ease.

(iii) As it happens, through assiduous journalistic enquiries and assistance from a network of sources, I was able to narrow the identity of the anonymous Twitter user down to two possibles. Individuals with whom I have absolutely no connection, whatsoever. 

(iv) What I can say for certain is that the police have had to put in place safeguarding measures for ‘Rusty Wheels’, after concerns were raised over the harassment of one of those two persons that included implied threats of violence against her/him.

(v) Miah has made many claims about ‘inaccuracies’ in my reporting, but never specifies a single one. Also, he never takes up his right to reply. Which would be a straightforward and appropriate form of challenge. Always relying, instead, on his stock-in-trade innuendo and smearing.

(vi) For Miah to claim that others are bullies is simply to deflect attention from his own nefarious activities. What he really means, through his tissue of lies and hate-filled bile is ‘I hate people whom not only stand up to me but push back hard’. Get used to it, Raja.

(vii) Given his own wide-scale and far-reaching failings towards children in Oldham, his repeated attempts to weaponise them against his critics, without an iota of credible evidence, is as grotesque as it is deeply offensive. 

(viii) As for the entire town knowing who is telling bare faced lies, Raja Miah inadvertently stumbles on the truth. I wouldn’t presume to speak for the town of Oldham, and he certainly can’t, but the metrics and doorstep feedback say that it is The Man from Mossley who is much more readily recognised in Oldham as a persistent, mendacious liar.

9th April 2021 (1 of 2)

(i) The ‘malicious blogger’ slur is repeated often and I will rehearse what was written in an earlier piece on this website and ignored by Raja MIAH: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) spent almost £150,000 (figures obtained via Freedom of Information request) trying to silence my criticism of the disgraced watchdog. The headline in the Huddersfield Examiner that reported on interlocutory proceedings correctly had the ‘malicious blogger’ allegation framed in quotation marks. I was neither present nor represented at that first hearing. Once my barrister was instructed, matters took on an entirely different hue. That allegation was not repeated, either in witness evidence from the IPCC caseworkers or in submissions made by the watchdog’s counsel. On the last working day before a final court hearing, that I was absolutely determined would go ahead, the IPCC capitulated and a compromise agreement was signed on terms that were favourable to me. At their insistence, a confidential annex was attached to the consent order which prevents me articulating exactly what those terms were. The temporary injunction was lifted and there is no final finding of malicious blogging. That leaves Miah, and his acolytes, who frequently post the ‘malicious blogger’ term, very exposed in terms of defending either defamation or harassment proceedings.

(ii) The ‘proven liar’ allegation, also repeated very often, arises from a libel judgment entered against me in 2014. Damages of £60,000 and costs of £18,000 were awarded to the claimant, a police sergeant who was a long-term friend of the former BBC personality, Jimmy Savile, and a regular visitor to his home. Due to ill-health, and financial embarrassment at the time, I was unable to afford representation or defend myself. The episode is, very obviously, one of considerable regret. However, both of those sums were settled some years ago and the matter concluded. Raja Miah is, of course, entitled to refer to those proceedings (no more than twice before it becomes a course of conduct of harassment) but he will, ultimately be put to proof, as will others, before a court of law, that he is entitled to refer to me, repeatedly, as ‘a proven liar’. The more he does it, the greater the difficulty in which he will find himself. If he takes independent legal advice that would be readily explained to him.

(iii) Miah claims that I ‘repeatedly promoted lies’ about him being a police informant. That is incorrect: I have on several occasions posed the question as to why, despite the commission of the most obvious and well-evidenced criminal offences of harassment, committed by way of posts such as these, on the Recusant Nine platform, he has not been arrested, charged and prosecuted. It was posited by way of the fact that many other people in Oldham, including prominent public figures, believe he is an informant or, alternatively, afforded some other form of protection by the police. Known in criminal circles as ‘a roof’. There is no statement of fact that he is a registered police informant. Simply because, if he is, as any journalist or court reporter would know, that information would never be publicly available, unless such an informant turned whistleblower, for example. If Miah denies that he is an informant then, in the first instance, that must be taken at face value. But some may wish to weigh, in the scales of truth and justice, his propensity to tell bare faced lies about many other matters. 

(iv) As explained to Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain, in an intelligence report filed with Greater Manchester Police on Monday 28th March, 2021, I have known a great deal of personal, financial, property and company information about Raja Miah for over six months, including his full address and postcode. That was obtained in order to ensure correct, appropriate and proportionate service of civil proceedings and/or for the purposes of laying an information at Tameside Magistrates’ Court (private prosecution is a more commonly used term). The police were assured that there has been no misuse of that information, whatsoever. Nor would there ever be. Beyond stating that Miah has lived in Mossley since 2004 (information readily obtained from Land Registry upon payment of a fee), and a highly relevant detail that Miah had previously tried to conceal from the wider public, there has been no attempt to identify publicly where he lives, or any association with any other person attempting to do the same. To suggest otherwise is a bare faced lie.

(v) I have neither knowledge of child abuse at Failsworth School nor of Cllr Fielding’s alleged wrongdoing in connection with it. All that can be discerned, from a distance, is that it amounts to more Raja Miah innuendo and tailored narrative, based on the usual second or third hand hearsay. If there is evidence, as is suggested, he should either publish sufficient detail to give readers a clear understanding of what are very serious assertions or, better still, take the concerns and the evidence to Oldham’s Safeguarding Hub. 

(vi) Similarly, I have no idea what Cllr Fielding was doing out walking in the Mossley area, apart from, perhaps, being drawn, as so many are, to the stunning West Riding countryside that borders the town. In which case, he would be showing very good judgement.

9th April, 2021 (2 of 2)

(i) This post alludes to the biggest and most bare faced lie of all. One that was completely destroyed last November in an excoriating piece, headlined ‘Get the white vote angry’, elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja Miah, and his cohort (also known as Raja’s Rabble), cling on desperately, and falsely, to ‘the Lee Rigby email’ because, in all truth, there is nothing else of substance left to support their purported claims as ‘child sex abuse campaigners’. The subject email, upon close analysis and taken in conjunction with a plethora of evidence, proves conclusively that there was no ‘cover-up’ of child sex abuse. Indeed, the very opposite is true. Arguably, Oldham Council did more than any other local authority in the country to tackle the child sexual exploitation (CSE) problem at the material time.

(ii) Miah has now dropped one of his previous oft-repeated bare faced lies: That Mohammed Imran Ali was convicted of a ‘hate crime’ against him. He wasn’t. It was a Communications Act offence for which ‘Irish Imy’ (as he is more commonly known) received a fine. The principal witness, Kaiser Rehman, declined to give evidence at the trial, on behalf of Miah, having lost confidence in his former friend and ally. Miah was also very upset that Rehman had contributed significantly to the ‘Get the white vote angry‘ piece and helped dismantle the false CSE cover-up claim.

(iii) Last month, ‘Imy’ submitted a detailed harassment complaint to Greater Manchester Police against Miah. His persistent smearing of Mr Ali includes the false allegation that he was Dale Cregan‘s ‘getaway driver’. Another bare faced lie (as set out in some detail here). Miah also falsely attempts to link ‘Imy’ to the killing of two police officers by Cregan, then attempts to extend the broken chain to those deaths to another of his regular targets, Cllr Arooj Shah. More bare faced lies.

(iv) Miah doesn’t name ‘the gangsters’ who have allegedly threatened him. Very probably because such individuals have more rewarding enterprises to deal with than wasting their time with Walter Mitty-type characters out in the Tameside countryside.

(v) Another regular bare faced lie is his constant reference to “my town” or “our town”. Oldham does not belong to Raja Miah or his attendant Rabble. A fair number of whom, including Miah, live nowhere near the town. They are a small group of belligerent, noisy, mostly unpleasant malcontents who speak for a tiny minority. 

(vi) He will be seeing at least one person in court before this year is out – and it remains to be seen whether his bravado is still extant at that point. Or he collapses in defeat beforehand, via a consent order, in the way he was forced to do recently when faced with a defamation claim from Cllr Riaz Ahmad. Whom Miah had falsely, and grotesquely accused of ‘grooming’ at least one child.

10th April, 2021

(i) The attempts to restrain Raja Miah from posting persistently harassing and defamatory material on his Recusant Nine platform are reasonable and proportionate. The Man from Mossley believes he is above the law. But the tide has turned; he is going to be kept very busy over next few months dealing with the consequences of his actions. 

(ii) As for claims of ‘intimidating’ commentators on his posts, that is arrant nonsense. It is their choice to make offensive, baseless comments in open forum – it is the choice of a journalist to place them in context, in a highly relevant article (see 6th April post above). Those keyboard warriors are either bold enough to stand by what they have said and take up right of reply – or slink sheepishly away with tails between their legs. Having been sucked into another pack of bare faced lies by Raja Miah.

(iii) Miah repeats the “our town” nonsense. If Oldham belonged to him, and those named in that article, everyone else would very probably leave.

(iv) If Raja is not rich, the public of Oldham is entitled to know what has happened to the alleged £millions milked from the Peacemaker racial harmony project and the free schools over a 15 year period. That led to him, at one point, owning four properties and driving, variously, a classic Jaguar, a Porsche 911, TVR supercar and a Maserati, whilst mostly working on a social worker’s pay grade. A contact whom worked with him in the latter part of the Peacemaker era, before it folded with money problems, says Miah also had shares in restaurants and takeaways. Businesses he now often dismisses as money-laundering enterprises.

(v) Miah claims he is not begging. But offers no explanation as to why he should be constantly pressing his supporters for money. Does the plush apartment need more fine furniture or art decorating the walls? Does the top end motor need a valet? Is there a more expensive version of his electronic gadgetry available? Tell us more, please, Raja.

(vi) As for corrupt politicians, Raja omits mention of one who is proven, by Home Office Immigration Service, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and the Insolvency Service to have committed serious wrongdoing and lost his council seat as a result. One whom Miah now avidly champions. Step forward, the aforementioned Montaz Ali Azad. There are no such findings against Jim McMahon and Cllr Sean Fielding, only bare faced lies.

11th April, 2021

(i) The claim by Raja Miah that ‘everything is either factual or my opinion based on the facts’ is a bare faced lie. It is very difficult to identify, in any Recusant Nine post, one single fact, that is backed up by viable documentary evidence. Many people, including this journalist and others of the fourth estate, have asked for proof of his claims. None has ever been forthcoming. Which is why his posts are being removed, his podcasts taken down and there are repeated social media bans. Playing the victim, which is the only recognisable talent in the Miah portfolio, just doesn’t wash. Those he attacks have decided enough is enough. The day of the Mossley bully is almost done.

(ii) Once the local elections are over, there are a number of people very happy to see Miah in a court of law. His bluff will be called in the way Cllr Riaz Ahmad did (see 9th April post above). Raja lost then – and he will lose again and again. Simply because his actions over a long period of time are indefensible. The police may have their reasons for not prosecuting him and I am more than alert to what they may be; others don’t, apart from limitations on funding. They want to go about their daily business in peace without a bombardment of harassment or to have bare faced lies told against them time and time again.

12th April, 2021

Many of the posts on the Recusant Nine platform are repetitive and tedious. Raja Miah has little new material to offer those from whom he is constantly seeking to milk money.

(i) He chooses not to use the name, ‘Neil Wilby’, in this post but repeats, yet again, the ‘malicious blogger’ and ‘proven liar’ slurs.

(ii) He claims I live in Huddersfield. Although my address, from 2004 up to 2018, had a HD postcode I have never lived in, or near, the town. I have no affinity with it, either.

(iii) He asserts, not for the first time, that I am ‘a so-called journalist’. My credentials as ‘a newsgatherer authorised by the National Police Chiefs Council’ (as stated on the rear of my press card) are well established. As in my accreditation as a court reporter with all of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Justice. I routinely make applications on my feet, from court press sets, before senior judges. If that is not good enough for Raja Miah, then so be it. But it is interesting that one of the key members of his ‘Rabble’, someone who sends him money every month, sees fit to set up a fake anonymous profile on Twitter with my press card as their bio pic.

(iv) He asserts that the legal action being taken against him is regarding grave concerns he may have about the Council’s running of his neighbouring Borough. That is a bare faced lie. It has been made very clear that the legal action concerns harassment and defamation. His conduct, no-one else’s.

(v) He states that Oldham is his ‘home town’. It is not. Another bare faced lie. He was born in Bradford and spent his early years there. He left Oldham, apparently, as soon as he had enough money to do so.

(vi) He claims to speak for the whole town of Oldham. That is another bare-faced lie. He has, or had, 114 subscribers to his Recusant Platform and a similarly small number of viewers of his ludicrous, self-aggrandising Sunday podcasts (the latest had just 71). If a vox-pop was conducted outside the civic centre, asking opinions on Miah’s claims about Cllr Fielding’s ‘bare faced lies’, 99% wouldn’t have a clue on the subject. Ask the same people about the spectacularly failed free Collective Free Spirit school (read more here) and there would, very likely, be a much stronger response.

(vii) Miah’s constant whining about ‘censorship’ reveals a troubled mindset: Always the victim, never the perpetrator. He sees nothing at all wrong spewing out a daily dose of hate-filled bile. The main purpose of which has always been to distract from the shame of exposure over the free schools that he founded, ran and used as cash cows.

13th and 14th April

The Miah response to this article, ‘Bare Faced Lies’, first published on the 13th, was largely predictable. It consisted of three lengthy, intemperate Recusant Nine cherry-picking diatribes that re-hash the same old allegations against the author of this piece. At their centre is the same ludicrous, self-gratifying proposition that someone is going to murder him – and the perpetrator could identify his location from an indistinct long shot of the facade of an unidentified stone building.

There is little or no public interest in repeating the same comments in response.

He continues to deny any wrongdoing in any area of his business past, and in his present personal conduct, and that, of course, is his prerogative; as is my ethical duty to report it if, and where, I find it.

The attack on ‘disgraced’ Cllrs Jenny Harrison and Arooj Shah is a dreadful slur and another bare faced lie. Neither of these elected officials have any findings against them, whatsoever. Both highly thought of in their wards, local communities and across the Borough. Cllr Shah and ‘Team Oldham’ have earned high acclaim for the efficient and effective esponse to the virus epidemic from local, regional and national media. Where is the disgrace in that?

A destruction of the bare faced lies told about Cllr Shah, by Raja Miah, was my first Oldham article last year (read here). It provided vindication for her but, most regrettably, no release from the torment of his persistent, misogynistic harassment.

There are, however, a number of interesting denials, and omissions from his narrative, that will be analysed in the next update to this piece. Although they do appear, at first blush, to be found wanting.

Miah claims that Jim McMcMahon MP and others are ‘distancing’ themselves from me. Elsewhere he claims that the national Labour Party has instructed its Members to avoid contact. Neither has any basis in either fact or evidence:

Firstly, there is no association between Neil Wilby and Mr McMahon, beyond the routine involvement of a journalist and an elected member of Parliament. There is infrequent contact, but he did provide a statement for inclusion in the article ‘Absent of evidence’ published on this website only last week (read here).

He did so because of the grave and demonstrably false, race-baiting allegations made by Miah against him and other Labour leaders in Oldham. Claims that Raja himself now appears to have now resiled from. He has certainly never repeated them once, since the subject article was published. Or referred to them in any form in his response to this ‘Bare faced lies‘ article.

Secondly, I contact Sean Fielding on an absolutely necessary basis. Like MPs, Council Leaders have their hands full at present dealing with the epidemic crisis on top of routine casework and the usual mountain of administration. The latest contact was earlier his month – and I am fully tuned into why he does not want to respond, publicly, to every single allegation against him, and those he leads, that pours incessantly from the Recusant Nine platform.

Thirdly, to the best of my recollection and record-keeping, there has never been a single contact between Debbie Abrahams MP and myself. We do not follow one another on Twitter either.

Fourthly, there is no UK Labour Party ban. Oldham councillors and at least one local constituency party continue to interact on social media, as recently as yesterday.

As part of my wider role as a journalist, I routinely have contact with other councillors and MP’s, across the Yorkshire and Humber Region and the North West, of all political persuasion. There is no reticence at all in Labour officials dealing with an accredited member of the press – and why should there be? Because Raja Miah says so. The proposition is utterly ludicrous.

To weaponise the death of Jo Cox, who was the Labour MP in the neighbouring constituency to my own, at the time of her death at the hands of a far right political extremist, and relate it even remotely to his own situation is beyond sleazy and grotesque. There is, on any independent view, no connection whatsoever between fair and balanced reporting of wrongdoing and an ‘incitement to murder’ of its subject. To then link senior politicians, some of whom were Party and Parliamentary colleagues of the late Mrs Cox, in an alleged conspiracy to murder Raja Miah, simply demonstrates how deranged and dangerous this man from Mossley has become. One might fairly argue that he may be coming perilously close to an enforced detention under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Raja MIAH alleges I have told lies about him in this article and particularises his complaints above. These are my responses (and last word):

1. There is an ongoing police investigation into the murky finances of the free schools which Miah founded and run. Referred to the Serious Fraud Office after pressure brought to bear by Angela Rayner MP, the investigation passed through to the National Economic Crime Unit and then Greater Manchester Police. Unless Miah knows any different then it is still ongoing:

2. In my possession is a leaked Manchester City Council report, authored by chief executive Joanne Roney and circulated to relevant council leaders and MP’s. It is a damning six-page document that particularises the safegaurding and child sex abuse failures at the free schools. It is unequivocal and calls in strong terms for further action to be taken by the relevant authorities. Once those formal avenues are exhausted, and only with the express permission of affected victims, then the contents of the document will be storified on this website. In the meantime, if Raja Miah wants to argue with lawyers as to whether that damning multi-agency report constitutes ‘findings’, or not, then he is invited to file and serve the necessary pre-action protocol letter.

3. There are two credible witnesses to the events that I have described. They would be prepared to give evidence to that effect. Given Raja’s unfortunate propensity to tell bare-faced lies then it would be an interesting call for a district or circuit judge as to who to believe. What would, inevitably, emerge in the course of those proceedings is just how many times, since, he can prove he has visited Oldham. Many, many witnesses could be produced to say that he is unwelcome. That is an inalienable fact.

4. There is nothing ‘clever’ about asserting one’s personal beliefs, especially if they are widely known and regularly broadcast on social media. I am in the fortunate position, both as an individual and through my vocation as a journalist, of not having to seek approval from Raja Miah for what I write, or explain every nuance to him and his cohort. If they don’t care for what is written, walk around it as you would if you saw dog excrement on the pavement. There is no obligation to step into it.

Also, I do not intend to attempt to provide multiple explanations to counteract the same lie that Miah repeats over and over again. But for simplicity, it is stated, unequivocally, that I have not said he is a police informant, but posed questions on social media to the effect that he may be one. As a credible explanation as to why he has not been arrested, interviewed, charged and prosecuted over the most dreadful, persistent, offensive harassment against a large number of Oldham citizens, elected officials and paid officers.

As it happens, in my possession is an account from a named witness who states that Raja was believed to be ‘a police informant’ back in the days when he lived or worked close to the old Chadderton Police Station in Victoria Street as a younger man. It goes on to say what relatively low-level activity Miah was alleged to be involved in at the time. It is very specific. Nevertheless, it is no higher than an allegation and one, doubtless, that Miah will deny. But the point is this; such information has been in the public domain since long before my investigations in Oldham began, and articles were published on this website, and Raja Miah has come to no harm. Nor did he scream at the time, or at any time since, that he was in danger of his life, as a result.

As Detective Inspector Kenny Blain explained to him, when dismissing criminal complaints made by Miah against me, a ‘police informant’ can take many forms and he is, on his own admission, almost certainly Oldham Police’s most prolific correspondent, with hundreds and hundreds of pages of complaints and disposals passing between them. Falling squarely into one of the specific categories that DI Blain had so carefully pointed out.

The proposition that these revelations are either likely to cause harm or intended to cause harm is roundly rejected. Not least, if he felt that way and was genuinely afraid, why make post after post on Facebook about it, drawing further attention to the possibility?

15th April, 2021

If Raja MIAH has a nemesis in Oldham it is Tahir Mushtaq – and here I must declare an interest: Having met Tahir for the first time last Autumn, to interview him over Oldham’s recent cultural and political history and to tap into his vast knowledge of the town, and many of its leading community figures, we have become firm friends. An articulate, intense, deeply religious, strong-willed family man, he is utterly committed to making Oldham a better place to live and a more cohesive, inclusive town. That came across, above anything else, in the first ten minutes of conversation and questions – and why we have become drawn together.

He is actively involved in, and a contributor to, a number of charities, and other good works, but makes no song and dance about that. His pleasure, in my informed estimation, is giving and providing succour to the needy.

Compare and contrast with Raja Miah’s contribution to charity, or wider society, in Oldham. Which, conversely and perversely, is to extract money from its citizens on a flimsy pretext rather than putting anything back into the town.

Tahir’s younger brother, Shaid is an elected Member of Oldham Council and serves the Alexandra ward, close to the town centre and the office in which I interviewed his brother. I have spoken once to Cllr Shaid Mushtaq, for around 30 minutes, ahead of publishing what has become a seminal piece on this website ‘Get the White Vote Angry‘ (read here).

He too, although a little less forthright, is another impressive individual. The willingness to engage, commitment to serve and improve the lives of those in his ward, under testing circumstances, coming across in every sentence.

The Mushtaq brothers come under fire from Raja Miah, on a routine basis, with his contrived, absent of evidence ‘Asian Cartels’ and ‘Gangster’ narratives. Shaid now picked upon, and bullied, because his elder brother had the temerity, over a period of six months, up to April, 2020, to relentlessly expose the tailored narratives and outrageous untruths posted on the discredited Recusant Nine platform. Amongst neutral Oldhamers it left Miah’s credibility seriously impaired.

Raja’s response was, according to him, to send a 100 page dossier about Tahir to the police. It resulted in no further action by the Greater Manchester force.

The latest post by Raja Miah, about Tahir Mushtaq, dated 15th April, 2021, is another desperate muddle. Miah is very free, almost every single day, with his gratuitous insults and peurile name-calling is, plainly, very touchy about being called ‘A Sewer Rat’. In the light of what Raja has posted about the late Jo Cox, one might say that Tahir was being generous?

The invitation for ‘The Pakistani Glodwick Goons’ to visit his home in Mossley runs counter to the fear Miah says he lives in. If violence was in issue, and it very plainly is not as far as the Mushtaqs and the other unidentified ‘Goons’ are concerned, Tahir wouldn’t need company. He is as strong as an ox, fleet of foot and as fit as a flea. A fighting machine, but in the ring not on the streets.

But what Tahir really, really wants, very much, is not a fist fight or a martial arts contest, but for Raja to seek professional help: Counselling, prescription drugs could avert a bigger crisis in someone who has, so plainly, lost the plot and is utterly consumed by hatred and revenge.

These obsessions with constantly making himself the victim, telling outrageous bare-faced lies that he cannot back up and, more crucially, violence and murder (and going to bed with a large knife, bought specially for the purpose) is seriously concerning and one, for sure, that is not lost on the local police. Particularly, as they had to recently put in place safeguarding measures for a harassment victim of Miah and his cohort. A matter in which I was able to provide some assistance to GMP.

The dispute between Miah, Tahir Mushtaq and Longfords has been investigated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the complaint(s) made by Raja not upheld. There was also an internal disciplinary enquiry, within the law firm, over the matter and a public statement issued. I know no more than that. Except, that one of Miah’s core tactics is to constantly re-hash his mountain of similarly failed complaints, ad nauseum. A characteristic of most, if not all, serial and vexatious complainers.

The allegations Miah makes regarding ‘hatred of Jews’ has no specification, supporting evidence and appears not be supported by application or complaint. When they are, appropriate journalistic enquiries will be made. In the meantime, it is classified as a baseless smear to distract from a lengthy, serious complaint made to Facebook, by Jim McMahon MP, over a series of allegedly anti-semetic posts on Recusant Nine.

15th April, 2021

If Heineken did persistent, mendacious liars they would call it Raja’s Brew. He repeats for the umpteenth time, mainly because there is nothing else left in the Miah locker, the Lee Rigby bare faced lie. For emphasis, the forensic, fully evidenced article, Get the White Vote Angry, completely destroying this Raja Miah myth, is weblinked here. As articulated elsewhere on this website, the shameless weaponising of the murder of a soldier, in these Recusant Nine posts, is on a par with linking his own alleged mortal danger to the late Jo Cox.

As for the allegations against Cllr Sean Fielding and Failsworth School, like so many others propogated on this platform, consist of innuendo and a loose association of facts. Yes, Cllr Fielding was a Governor at Failsworth School. Yes, there has been at least one court case involving a teacher there. But how does that (i) equate to a ‘cover-up’ if the offender(s) have been reported and prosecuted? (ii) a matter in which Cllr Fielding could have been directly involved with? (iii) Is the unspoken smear that all teachers, headteachers, safeguarding partners, the police and the other governors were involved with this ‘cover-up’.

Any, or all, of those mentioned have every right to be aggrieved at the imputation of very serious wrongdoing. If it was decided to take legal action against him, jointly or severally, he would appear to have little or no defence to a claim.

For clarity, in relation to the role of school governor, this is a widely accepted specification for the role:

-Is accountable for the performance of the school to parents and the wider community.

-Plans the school’s future direction.

-Selects the head teacher.

-Makes decisions on the school budget and staffing including the performance.

-Management policy.

-Ensures the agreed curriculum is well taught.

None of those components would give substance to the allegation that an individual governor had locus over matters concerning the behaviour, criminal or otherwise, of a schoolteacher. For the avoidance of doubt, and mindful, and respectful, of course, of the front centre placement of the abuse victims, this is not a defence of Cllr Fielding – he is a bit part player in all of this and appears to have little or no culpability – it is put up for the benefit of the many other innocent parties now tainted by Raja Miah’s thoughtless actions and gratuitous smearing.

Postscript

In the meantime, his home borough of Tameside, Oldham and the rest of Greater Manchester await something original and engaging from Recusant Nine that might, just might have a ring of truth. Before it is finally closed down permanently by Facebook.

Page last updated: Tuesday 20th April, 2021 at 1055 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook.

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Line of Duty 6 – review of episode 3

After a relatively static second stanza, with much of the attention focused in the AC-12 interview room, the pace definitely quickened sharply in this week’s renewal, writes Neil Wilby.

Keeping up with the storyline

Central, of course, to this season’s Line of Duty action is Operation Lighthouse, the unsolved murder of investigative journalist, Gail Vella.

As foretold in the review of episode 2 (read here), rookie police officer, Ryan Pilkington, was central to much of the action in episode 3. Which is a clue, of itself. As a henchman for the organised crime group (OCG) he is effective and efficient, being ‘Johnny on the Spot’ in almost every crucial piece of action, unrestrained by any recognisable shift pattern.

The body count increased by one, as PC Lisa Patel perished. Another murder to add to PC Pilkington’s tally, almost two as Pilks attempted to drown Terry Boyle in the same lake; Steve Arnott’s female-body-in-bed count also increased by one, as he slipped between the sheets with Stephanie Corbett; the artful setting up and subsequent arrest of the hapless superintendent, Ian Buckells; random drug testing at AC-12; the return of the brutish prison officer from series 3 who snaps a handcuffed wrist attached to Police Sergeant Farida Jatri; a witness to an argument in a pub between CHIS Alastair Oldroyd and suspected murderer, Carl Banks, seems more bent on setting a false trail than assisting murder enquiries; more scrapyard action uncovers the post-mortem resting place of Jackie Laverty (or parts of her, at least), the freezer recently removed from Terry’s flat; and the OCG link between her murder and that of Gail Vella: Steve and Kate’s realisation that Ryan was the kid who attempted to cut Steve’s fingers off in series one and confirmation that Jo Davidson can stay as cool as a cucumber and clearly has links with the OCG.

Even more questions than answers

The BIG one is will Ted Hastings still be in charge of AC-12 at the end of this season?

Avid Ted-watchers will have noted, his distracted look throughout the first three episodes has veered, too often, towards the shifty. Who can Superintendent Hastings now trust in Ac-12, and the higher echelons of Central Police. Just as crucially, who retains confidence in him?

He is already on a written warning (in reality that would have decayed by now as, under Police Regulations, they only have standing for eighteen months), according to anti-corruption portfolio holder, the weary-looking Deputy Chief Constable, Andrea Wise, and she is using that disciplinary outcome to rein him in.

The shifty Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) (most journalists know at least one of those) is, also, plainly uncomfortable with Ted’s ‘we catch bent coppers’ routine. The PCC was elected on a promise to tackle police corruption and restore public confidence in the force which, in real policing terms, is PCC and Home Office code for ‘we don’t admit it exists and cover it up if any is squeezed out’. A matter about which I know a great deal, not least because, in the PCC elections in 2012, I was campaign manager for the independent candidate in West Yorkshire, who stood on precisely that platform. In the event, narrowly defeated on a count of the second preference votes.

Gill Biggelowe’s line from series five was a classic: ‘That’s the problem with corruption investigations, sometimes they find some’. Gill, was of course, PCC Rohan Sindwhani’s special counsel and, ultimately, exposed as connected to the OCG. She also, unsuccessfully, tried to romance, and then bed, Supt Hastings. Lucky Ted.

The PCC commissioned an investigation into links between corrupt police officers and organised crime groups. Codenamed Operation Pear Tree, we learned from an archived Gail Vella broadcast clip that its findings were seriously, and falsely, downplayed by Sindwhani at a press briefing.

The reported Pear Tree outcome – that the operation had uncovered no institutionalised corruption links – had no basis in fact or evidence. A matter that the murdered journalist readily surmised.

Gail had attempted to interview the slippery PCC, for an upcoming podcast on police corruption, but he abruptly terminated the interview and walked out.

Sepearately, after he spent the night at Steph Corbett’s house, Steve stayed back after she left the house to go to work, and after a lengthy search of drawers and cupboards, climbed into the loft and found a brown envelope containing a large quantity of £50 notes. A short time previously, and arousing suspicion around his boss, Arnott had seen Steph and Hastings leave AC-12 HQ together. He was also curious about her present financial situation, which might well have been the main reason for his return visit to the Corbett home in Liverpool, rather than a romantic interest.

Against this background, Superintendent Ted Hastings faces an uphill battle to still be in charge of AC-12 at the end of this season. Particularly, if the arrest and interview of Ian Buckells backfires or Steve Arnott links the cash find at the Corbetts to Ted.

How much longer can Ryan Pilkington remain at large

The ruthless, extremely violent PC Pilkington will shortly outlive his usefulness to the OCG, if he hasn’t reached that point already. It is easy to envisage a sticky end for this ill-starred young man.

A Tommy Hunter protégé from an early age, he was tasked with silencing Terry Boyle. He failed on that premise, but the driver of the police car returning Terry to his safe accommodation, was not so lucky. Having garroted PC Patel, and caused the vehicle she was driving to veer into a roadside lake, Pilks drowned her as she emerged from the inundated vehicle and was swimming to safety. Terry was saved from the same fate, by the alert presence of Kate Fleming, who had, astutely, sensed there was something not right about the allocation of escort duties to Pilkington.

Kate was also unconvinced by his explanation of the events leading up to the crash and, plainly, amazed and dismayed when Superintendent Buckells rushed to judgement and awarded the bent, murderous cop a commendation for saving Terry, amidst a lukewarm response from the rest of the Operation Lighthouse team.

Will Ryan Pilkington be arrested and questioned before he is silenced? Episode four will tell us much more. Including why both Kate Fleming and Steve Arnott were so slow on the uptake, having both had dealings with Pilkington during his young, hooded thug era. One officer has removed part of his records from police systems to frustrate exposure of his past. The finger of suspicion immediately pointed to Ian Buckells.

How will Buckells cope in the A-12 interview room?

The first puzzle for viewers is the trail of clues, reaching all the way back to series one, that cast suspicion on Ian Buckells.

(i) his well rehearsed contempt for AC-12

(ii) the various reminders of his affinity for golf and the allusion towards ‘The Caddy’ and the OCG. Crime boss, Tommy Hunter was arrested at a golf club of course.

(iii) he was involved in the surveillance cock-ups, prior to Terry Boyle’s arrest at Beechwood House. But it might have been inherent laziness that caused him to sign off paperwork prepared by Jo Davidson rather than ill-intent.

(iv) he wanted Terry charged for the murder of Gail Vella, in the face of highly questionable evidence.

(v) Kate Fleming discovered that Buckells has links to Deborah Devereaux, a witness brought in to cast light on contact between police CHIS, Alastair Oldroyd, the now deceased Carl Banks – a prime suspect for the murder of Gail Vella before he, himself, was slain – and Terry Boyle. Earlier in his police career, Ms Deveraux was arrested for assault, and it was Buckells who was the driving force behind charges against her being dropped. A calling in of a favour by Buckells, perhaps?

(v) Jo Davidson says he was the officer who decided to replace PS Farida Jatri with PC Ryan Pilkington. An odd choice, at face value: A raw, rookie cop taking on the role of an experienced sergeant in a murder incident room. No self-respecting senior investigating officer (SIO) would tolerate that. The stakes are too high to risk such as the continuity of evidence chains being broken and inadvertent contamination of exhibits.

(vi) also according to Jo Davidson, there is a strong suspicion that files missing from the murder incident room, and not disclosed to AC-12, were found in Buckells’ car. But, of course, very easy to plant, if someone with access to those same files was trying to frame him.

But, is it all just too obvious. Is Buckells also playing a long game to try to flush out the high level police links to the OCG and set to emerge with honour and membership at the golf club intact?

One thing is fairly certain, though. He will, like his junior colleague Farida Jatri, claim that he is being framed by DCI Joanne Davidson. The fact that Jo is set to take over his job suggests that, at first blush, Buckells is not believed.

What is in store for Jo Davidson?

Capable, and cold as ice for most of the time, but close to mental breakdown in less guarded moments, Jo is likely to be promoted as a temporary superintendent followed the forced removal of Ian Buckells from Hillside Lane Police Station.

But, perhaps the most telling scene in episode three came very near the end: With Buckells safely in custody, and Kate Fleming back in the AC-12 good books, Davidson returned to her apartment-cum-fortress. Opening her laptop, the communication software she was using, presumably encrypted, appeared to be the same as deployed by DS John Corbett’s OCG gang to communicate with the enigmatic ‘H’ in series five. Corbett was, of course, an undercover cop turned rogue. Ultimately killed by Ryan Pilkington.

The message that she sent may well have referred to the apparent fitting-up and arrest of her line manager: “All under control now”. Underneath three little pause dots appeared, indicating that the ‘unknown user’ was typing a reply.

This, and the scene with the burner phone at the conclusion of episode two, confirm Jo’s links to the OCG. Under coercion, or otherwise. There is, plainly, much yet to discover about the enigmatic DCI. Not least where she currently sits in the OCG hierarchy or, alternatively, how she is being blackmailed.

Is DS Chris Lomax a re-born Dot Cottan?

Lomax is, in police parlance, ‘bag carrier’ for DI Kate Fleming and DCI Joanne Davidson. He appears, for now, to have their trust and confidence. But is he all that he seems? He was the officer to receive the intelligence, in the murder incident room, about the alleged killer of Gail Vella, “Ross Turner”. Likewise, the witness Deborah Devereaux was introduced into the investigation by Lomax. But most surprisingly, he appears to have formed no suspicions about Ryan Pilkington, despite being his ‘skipper’ and the officer who allocates his duties.

Will Steve Arnott test positive for drugs?

After being tipped off by Stephanie Corbett about T/DI Arnott’s overdependence on painkillers, Ted Hastings arranged for ‘random’ drug testing to be carried out at AC-12 HQ. It would be surprising if Steve didn’t give a positive reading, given the amount of codeine in his system. In the police service, a failed drug test is, almost inevitably, a career-ender. But the Police Federation, in Arnott’s case, would argue the strongest possible mitigation: Severe injuries in a number of incidents on duty with AC-12. Including the attack by ‘Balaclava Man’ that left him in a wheelchair, and then on crutches, for months. He still suffers from nerve damage. But, in the event, that would take time and Steve would be suspended whilst the disciplinary process played out. Leaving him to play the now-familiar loose cannon role.

What is to be become of Farida Jatri?

Having been spurned by ex-lover Jo Davidson, grassing her up, stalking her and then, seemingly, fitted up by the OCG with incriminating burner phones, Farida is in a bad place. The OCG have strong links in this jail, including with brutal and bent prison officers, and fears for her future well being and safety are well grounded. My money is on Steve Arnott coming to her aid, and, not for the first time, whilst he is suspended from duty.

How many more clues will freezer chest removed from Terry Boyle’s flat yield?

OCG associate, Jackie Laverty, was murdered (another slit throat) in series one, and her dead body was stored in Terry’s fridge freezer, until it was later deposited, not very carefully, in a scrap yard, alongside John Corbett’s body near the end of series five.

When Terry was arrested in episode one of the present series, the attendant police search found that the freezer had been removed. The working hypothesis being that the OCG was tipped off and had quickly lifted it.

The freezer was recovered as part of the AC-12 investigation, not Operation Lighthouse (again, not something that would happen in real life policing). Traces of Laverty’s blood were found inside, despite the apparent purging of the freezer by the OCG.

Cuckooing is a form of crime, termed by the police, in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for county lines drug trafficking. Terry is now regarded by at least some of the AC-12 officers as such a victim.

Those same anti-corruption officers now also believe that Terry will be able to assist their enquiries and identify whom, exactly, has been using his home and to what purpose. A revealing interview is likely to be part of episode four.

On a personal note, but with due respect to the writers, producers, fellow actors and the necessary, overarching dramatic licence, I’m uncomfortable with how interviews with a vulnerable adult at Hillside Lane Police Station have been portrayed. They would not withstand scrutiny under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and, very likely, be deemed inadmissable under section 78, if an application to exclude such evidence was made by defence counsel at any subsequent trial. But, for all that, terrific acting from Tommy Jessop, who plays the key part of Terry Boyle in this series.

Finally, is she or isn’t she?

One of the bigger conundrums in series six is, very obviously, the status of DI Kate Fleming: Did she really leave behind the rooting out of bad apple cops in AC-12 to catch the killer of Gail Vella? Or is she deep undercover, with one of the final police links to the OCG chain suspected to be serving at The Hill? Or, is all this a front and Kate the ultimate double-dealing bent copper?

As for her love life, the blossoming affair with Jo Davidson was put on slow burn in episode 3 although another evening in the wine bar appears to have drawn them closer.

Kate’s sexuality remains a mystery, one heightened by the torch that Steve Arnott’s seems to have held for her, over many years. The flame of which appears to be re-kindling. Which would explain why the plucky detective can attract alpha females so easily, but cannot sustain interest in them over time.

The question of whether Kate is using romantic overtures to get closer to Jo in order to discover the full truth about her background, and policing history, still hangs heavily in the air.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over next five episodes. Buckle in at 9pm tonight, BBC One.

Page last updated: Sunday 11th April, 2021 at 0915 hours

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.

Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Absent of evidence

Tameside’s best known political agitator, Raja Miah, suffered a further blow this week with yet more social media bans, writes Neil Wilby.

Two of his weekly broadcasts on the ‘Recusant Nine’ YouTube channel, purporting to cover political issues in the neighbouring Borough of Oldham, were removed after both were found to contain defamatory material.

An interest is declared, as a significant part of the content was directed at the journalistic output on this website, accompanied by the now-standard personalised abuse.

However, by the time my own complaint was made, the harassing and highly offensive podcasts had already been taken down. At least one of which is now the subject of safeguarding concerns over the safety of one of its targets and consequent police enquiries.

It is not known, at this time, to whose complaints YouTube have responded but, in no particular order, Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain of Greater Manchester Police; Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton; and Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, and nationally known justice campaigner, Gail Hadfield-Grainger, were also under attack on the podcasts.

Miah claims, publicly, that the MP and the Council Leader are involved in a conspiracy, with me, to incite his murder. DI Blain, and the rest of Greater Manchester Police, is said to be turning a blind eye to the plot. The Facebook post, from 4th April, 2021 articulating that baseless proposition is also subject to complaint and application.

This is the picture that Raja claims puts his life in danger. He further asserts, with no evidence whatsoever, that ‘”Rusty Wheels” is an associate of Sean Fielding and Neil Wilby’. A rather ludicrous picture and a non-existent ‘association’ is the sum total of the conspiracy to murder. Little wonder GMP gave his ‘complaint’ short thrift:

‘The Man from Mossley’ has, it is said, previously been suspended from Facebook on at least two occasions. The social media giant has also sanctioned Miah over monetising his output via ‘supporter’ subscriptions.

Every ‘Recusant Nine’ post, or podcast, is accompanied by Raja begging for money. His latest scheme, and one, it seems, designed to circumvent the Facebook ban, is, also, the subject of at least two complaints to Paypal, who facilitate the ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ scheme.

An oddity, given that he lives in some splendour in an upmarket commuter village on the edge of the Pennine Hills, with a top end car parked in the precincts (he has previously driven Lamborghini and Porsche models) and regular shots of his expensive camera and video equipment being shown off to his audience (his latest podcast has just 222 views, over a week after uploading).

Those who thought that the preposterous ‘murder conspiracy’ was the limit of his stupidity, and propensity to outrage, were, however, wrong:

Just two days later Miah posted this on Facebook:

These are a selection from the comments posted below the Raja Miah offering. Most of them are Recusant Nine regulars. Where necessary, syntax errors have been corrected. Not one contributor asked about the facts and evidence backing up the claims made by their hero, such as who was afraid of whom; questioned the source of ‘the rumours’; referred to the questionable bona fides of a notorious independent councillor; or were curious about why there was no quoted comment from those featured in Miah’s outrageous post.

Graham Whitehead

“Oldham council are the lowest of the low. They will resort to any shitty stuff they can.”

[This ex-UKIP election candidate, and Britain First follower, was reported over racist comments made on his Facebook page, during the 2015 local council polls. He lost badly to Jim McMahon and Whitehead is said to bear a grudge against him as a result.]

Ian Dunn

“OMBC have always had a dirty tricks department. They have now sunk to the bottom of their own cesspit.”

Marlene Williamson

“The council’s actions are disgusting and degrading beyond words.”

Tim Howell

“OMBC threaten good Oldhammers who stand up for town and independents…They protect paedos, crooks, court votes by giving away land for peanuts..Libdems all the wanton (?) May 6th get that shithead out of office.”

Mohib Uddin (ex Lib Dem councillor in Oldham).

“Absolutely shocking behaviour by the ruling Labour Cartel. I urge the town’s 3 Labour MP’s and Labour Council Leader to urgently issue a statement condemning this atrocious behaviour and distance themselves from such hurtful comments. Gary, next time you are in Coldhurst let me know. We are from different political parties but I will proudly walk along with you. This vile behaviour by the Labour Cartel in Oldham has to stop. Full stop.”

Rocky Skelshaw (a pseudonym for Kerry Skelhorn, about whom much more can be read here).

“Raja – it’s not just towards Gary – it’s a British MP INCITING HATE towards the armed forces. It’s TREASON! That’s why I was so utterly gobsmacked by it – have things gone so far downhill in Oldham that we no longer recognise crime – that people shrug this off as ‘unsurprising’. I’m sorry but I do find it SURPRISING that an MP should behave like this! He should be arrested & investigated. Never mind GMP – MI5 should be looking at him.”

Disgraced ex-UKIP member, Warren Bates, said in reply to Miss Skelhorn: “MI5 look at everyone and everything. If any action is taken, your guess is as good as mine. Don’t forget the opposition party is the Lib Dem and they’re all in it.”

Janet Ellis

‘They were rotten to the core 20 years ago when we lived in Oldham. Seems nothing has changed. Labour will always be the same. Wouldn’t trust any of them.’

Bev Heney

‘It’s a fucking disgrace Debbie Barratt-Cole. Its a criminal offence to incite violence. But how many will face a court for this. Not a fucking one of them SHAMEFUL.”

Feelings, very clearly, run high amongst a small number of those who oppose the Party controlling the local Council in Oldham. Whether that is reflected at the ballot box on 6th May remains to be seen.

But, for Raja, outrage equals more money; especially from this core support of a rabidly anti-Labour caucus and known far-right supporters. They drink in his divisive and hate-filled outpourings. He is their totem in the war against the despised ruling Party in the Borough. A group from which former member Miah was expelled last August.

The fact that he is a persistent, mendacious liar is now well rehearsed elsewhere on this website (read more here) and threads through this deconstruction of his deeply troubling race-baiting post.

The starting point is the Miah connections with Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (the POOS). He is believed to be one of the founders, said to select its election candidates (read more here) and it is a matter of record that he is one of the moderators on the POOS Facebook page.

Paul Taylor, who runs another fledgling political party in the town, Northern Heart UK (formerly Oldham Heart), asserts: ‘Raja Miah is the directing mind behind POOS. They meet monthly at Springhead Liberal Club. He has major say on policy, tactics and candidate selection’. Taylor comments on most of the Recusant Nine posts, expressing very strong anti-Labour Party views. A previous falling-out with Raja appears to have now been repaired.

Two of Miah’s closest friends, Paul Errock and Debbie Barratt-Cole, stood unsuccessfully as candidates in the 2019 General Election. Both of whom also contribute financially to either the POOS, Raja Miah, or the Recusant Nine platform.

At least three Facebook ‘supporters’ who previously sent Miah money every month were picked as candidates in the forthcoming local elections in Oldham. They include Gary Tarbuck, who is at the centre of the latest controversy. The other two are Marc Hince and Mark Birchall. It is unclear how many other POOS candidates will be on the ballot papers. Or, whether they also contribute to the Miah coffers. Six POOS candidates, from an original pool believed to be twelve, are alleged to have dropped out because of what supporters say was ‘hate and harassment’. Completely absent of evidence, in the usual way.

Tarbuck is prominently referenced in the opening paragraph of the Recusant Nine post and is, of course, central to the rest of the Miah ramblings. The assumption, in those circumstances, is that he is a party and, very probably a contributor, to what is written.

Several questions arise, not least: With the local elections just over four weeks away, and having switched wards only last week, from Saddleworth South to Saddleworth North, how does Gary find the time to be supporting another candidate miles away from his countryside base?

On the doorstep, how did Tarbuck explain the migration away from his family’s deep roots in the Labour Party, with his grandfather, former Mayor Frank Heap, being such a hugely respected figure both in the town of Oldham and across the political divide.

How was the alleged corruption and child sex abuse cover-up articulated or evidenced to ward constituents. Who is corrupt? Who is involved in the cover-up? Where is the evidence? Does he name names, or is it just a POOS party line being spun on the back of largely baseless, defamatory posts by Raja Miah?

But the most crucial question, regarding corruption, concerns one of the men Gary Tarbuck is avidly supporting and campaigning alongside in Coldhurst, Montaz Ali Azad. Found guilty, in 2016, of a string of offences relating to tax irregularities and unregistered workers, the Labour Party withdrew the whip whilst he was a sitting councillor in Oldham and he then left the fold. Later to be defeated as an independent candidate in the 2019 local elections by Labour’s Ruji Sapna Surjan.

That election campaign was not without controversy: Azad was caught out claiming he was the ‘Labour independent candidate’ on the first version of his election leaflet (later corrected after complaints to the Returning Officer). He also claimed to live locally, but his home address, listed publicly by the Disqualification Authority, is in Burnley Lane, Chadderton.

His troubles began when Home Office immigration officers discovered the unlawful employment during an inspection visit in August, 2013. There were three illegal workers on his premises at the time.

Eurolinen UK Ltd, now dissolved, operated an industrial laundry on Dickenson Road in Ashton-under-Lyne. The firm went into liquidation in September 2014, owing £105,367 to creditors. It had ceased trading one month earlier.

Following an investigation, launched by the Insolvency Service, Azad was disqualified for six years from being a director of any company or having any management role within one.

He was ordered to pay a £15,000 civil penalty, which remained unpaid at the date of the company’s liquidation.

Ex-Cllr Azad has been approached to establish the position regarding any voluntary arrangement in respect of unpaid creditors and the present status of the fine.

The disgraced politician, in whom the POOS now place so much faith, promoting so heavily, and who was Eurolinen UK’s sole director, also failed to ensure the company lawfully operated a ‘Pay As You Earn’ scheme by not declaring the illegal employees – and accounting to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for deductions that should have been made from their earnings for income tax and National Insurance. Over £17,000 was owed to HMRC when the company went bust.

Azad was involved, at the time, in a number of local restaurant businesses, but resigned as a director of three other limited companies just before his disqualification became effective. He had also opened another industrial laundry business, Marked Industries Ltd, which set up in Oldham just before Eurolinen UK Ltd was raided. Companies House records show Shofina Bibi, who lived with Azad at the time, owned 75 per cent of its shares. That company was dissolved in August last year. Shomuz Miah was also a director. Khalique Miah is a director of one of Azad’s former companies, Niadorn Ltd, which is still trading.

One of the most vociferous commentators on the Recusant Nine post, Mohib Uddin, is a long-serving, senior tax inspector. He is also a close friend and political ally of Raja Miah, who describes Uddin as a ‘leading political analyst’. Mohib, in spite of his vocation and past history in a short-lived and notably unremarkable spell as an Oldham councillor, plainly does not see a great deal wrong with the corrupt personal, political and corporate history of Montaz Ali Azad. He, more than anyone, would know the background to this independent candidate. As can be seen from his public comment, despite the obvious conflict with his day job, he is prepared to ‘walk with’ Azad (and Tarbuck) in Coldhust to ‘show solidarity’. A matter now raised, quite properly, with HMRC’s press office as a public interest concern.

By way of contrast, Robert Clarke, a group leader with the Insolvency Service said: “The Insolvency Service rigorously pursues directors who break employment and immigration laws. Taking on staff illegally means those staff do not enjoy basic employment rights and is a clear breach of a director’s duties.

He added, “The public has a right to expect that those who break the law will face the consequences. Running a limited company means you have statutory obligations as well as protections, and this should serve as a warning to other directors tempted to take on illegal staff.”

In the second paragraph of the Recusant Nine post, Miah refers to an ‘extremely disturbing rumour’ that, according to him, is ‘an incitement of violence against Gary Tarbuck’ (fourth paragraph). He does not state either the source of the rumour, how knowledge of it came to him or how he can know that it is ‘spreading like wildfire’ in the local community when he lives miles away and spends his days bashing a keyboard angrily or presenting himself in front of one of his cameras.

As with so much, if not all, of Raja’s outpourings on social media, it is innuendo, the flying of a kite, the stirring of hate and division, and the intention to smear that invariably trump facts and evidence. Which explains the inclusion of the line, ‘reports of this (HE KILLS MUSLIMS) are being shared by senior Oldham Council leaders and politicians’. It is well rehearsed that none of those leaders and politicians will have anything to do with Miah, or his acolytes; which begs the next question: How is he privy to the sharing of information so sensitive that, if it ever existed and was exposed, would instantly end the career of those same politicians and, very likely, bring down the Labour Party in Oldham?

In the third paragraph it all becomes a muddle: Miah claims it is ‘the Bangladeshi community who are scared’. Of what, he doesn’t say. But not the upstanding, well-connected Gary Tarbuck, surely?

But this contradiction is accompanied by the standard, self-aggrandising claim that so very many people in Oldham take all their problems to him; a noted trouble causer who has done so much damage to the town, and seriously enriched himself along the way, rather than to their elected representatives, local religious leaders, community champions or, if so afraid for their peace and safety, the local police whom, very visibly, work hard on cohesion and inclusivity.

The remainder of the post is largely an attack on the latter, claiming yet again that Greater Manchester Police are corruptly acting against him – and have an entrenched political allegiance to the Labour leaders in Oldham and the wider region. Coupled with a plea by Raja Miah for Oldham citizens, and public figures, ‘to condemn’ his political enemies on the basis of nothing higher than a scurrilous, unevidenced rumour that ‘shames the town’.

He signs off by saying that Gary Tarbuck ‘will continue to serve Oldham’. A further decoration of the truth, as the Saddleworth man has never held elected office and only moved back to the Borough in 2014, having spent most of his adult life as a serving soldier, either elsewhere in the UK, or posted abroad.

In a moment of quiet reflection, the same Gary Tarbuck might well regret having his, and the POOS name, and his photograph, attached to yet another Recusant Nine post that now appears to have backfired spectacularly. There is no mention at all, on his Facebook election candidate’s page, of the visit to Coldhurst, the fear he is allegedly living under or the Recusant Nine post making that claim. Tarbuck is, however, continuing to promote the corrupt Montaz Ali Azad, in spite of the latest revelations.

The late Frank Heap, for his part, may well be looking down aghast at what is being done in his good name.

Contact was made yesterday with two prominent members of the Muslim community in Oldham, both with strong links to Coldhurst and its local constituents. One said of the Miah allegations, emphatically, ‘I’ve never heard such nonsense‘. The other noted: ‘The latest in a long line of Raja’s conspiracy theories, without any truth in it at all‘.

Councillors Fielding and Abdul Jabbar, who represents Coldhurst, have been approached for a statement regarding the truth, or otherwise, of the assertions made in the Recusant Nine post. No acknowledgement, or reply, was provided to these questions:

1. The key question, of course, is how these ‘He Killed Muslims’ rumours came into being and the extent of their circulation: Can you assist with this?

2. Also, is the Bangladeshi community in Coldhurst living in fear? 

3. Without wishing to intrude too deeply into your [Cll Jabbar’s] ward business, how many of your constituents have contacted you with concerns over Mr Tarbuck’s brief incursion into the ward before or since the Miah ‘rumours’ were posted yesterday on Facebook?

Jim McMahon was asked to comment in the light of the claim by Kerry Skelhorn that his ‘election team’ are at the heart of the rumours. This is his response:

These allegations are highly offensive and completely untrue. I will be seeking legal advice regarding such defamatory statements, around both those who make them and those who share them.”

Raja Miah has declined all previous invitations to exercise his right to reply. He did, however, post a response, of sorts, on his Recusant Nine page shortly after publication of this article. It is another largely fact-free, defamatory, ad hominem attack that fails to address any of the serious, core issues rehearsed here. Its focus appears to be on the prospect of having his Paypal money supply interrupted, or cut off altogether, and the exposure of his luxury lifestyle.

The contribution of HMRC’s Mohib Uddin was rather more succinct, but on broadly the same theme: “The man [Neil Wilby] is a bell end”.

The conspiracy to murder; the Coldhurst ‘rumour’, now proven to be false; the corrupt councillor, the tax fraud, exploitation of illegal immigrants or election fraud; and the relentless milking of money, by his wealthy close friend, from those less well off, went unremarked by the tax inspector.

Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth’s Party Chairwoman (as she describes herself), Sarah Shilton, added: “Seriously guys, I hope he [Neil Wilby] sees this or someone sends it to him. Mental health is a serious subject and if someone is showing signs of mental health issues we should be offering help”.

For emphasis, she added this NHS Helpline weblink.

The same POOS, and the same Chair(woman), who kick up a stink about alleged ‘hate and harassment’ towards candidates standing for their Party. But, more on that soon, as a statement unearthed on their own website seriously undermines that claim. Hoisted by their own petard, yet again.

The moment of truth will arrive for them on 6th May, 2021 at the polling booths. Those adjacent to the political scene in Oldham say, emphatically that the POOS will not win a single seat on Oldham Council. Their appalling conduct, propensity for deceit amongst their supporters, and the close association with disgraced Raja Miah and corrupt Montaz Ali Azad, suggests that would be the right result for the town.

A full list of wards and nominations published by the Council’s Returning Officer can be found (here). There is also a helpful party by party breakdown of candidates and other interesting statistical information relating to both the forthcoming and 2019 local elections in Oldham.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 0855 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook.

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.

© 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.

Line of Duty 6 – review of episode 2

After a frenetic opening to season six, the tempo changed in the second stanza as the plot thickened and the show’s key characters were fleshed out; notably the key ‘corrupt cop’ suspect, Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson, writes Neil Wilby.

Criticised in some quarters over her acting of the role, viewed from this quarter at least, Kelly Macdonald, with her to-die-for, lilting Scottish accent, has been outstanding.

But, that aside, what was learned and what are the key questions being asked by fans?

Keeping up with the with the storyline

Not always easy, as there are oblique clues and false trails aplenty, it seems. Operation Lighthouse, an investigation into the murder of investigative journalist Gail Vella, seems to have hit the rocks – and there didn’t seem to be a great deal of conventional detective work on show.

Jo Davidson, the Senior Investigating Officer, is distracted by the break-up of one intimate relationship, with a sergeant on her team, Farida Jatri, and developing a new love interest with another team member, Detective Inspector Kate Fleming, a Line of Duty stalwart whom, it was unexpectedly discovered, had left the Central Police Anti-Corruption Unit, codenamed AC-12, at the beginning of episode one.

The murder enquiry, ‘the highest profile investigation in this police force’ says Ted Hastings, now appears to have been taken over by AC-12 (not something that would happen in ‘real life’ policing), having sequestered all the files in a second raid on the murder incident room at Hillside Lane Police Station (‘The Hill’).

The first raid flopped after Kate Fleming betrayed a confidence shared with her by Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, her erstwhile long term colleague at AC-12. The lovestruck DI tipped off her new best friend, Jo, which presented an opportunity for them both, and the rest of the murder squad, to embarrass and humiliate the anti-corruption team (which does happen in policing). A scene relished by The Hill’s most senior officer, the permanently shifty Superintendent Ian Buckells.

Buckells had earlier received a request from Farida for a transfer from The Hill. She said she could no longer work with, or for, DCI Davidson. Jo did not reveal they were in a relationship, or that it had just ended messily (Farida is still stalking Jo), simply saying that the transfer should be granted and ‘she would become another police station’s problem’.

The body count increased by one, as Carl Banks, installed last week as the viewer’s favourite to be lifted for the murder of Gail Vella, was found dead on waste ground. Far away from prying eyes of pedestrians and motorists – and not a CCTV camera in sight. He had been tortured before being put out of his misery with a cut to the throat. The price one pays for shooting off at the mouth over organised crime group business.

Conveniently, some might say, the murder weapon was found at the scene, close to the body. The blade was later linked, forensically, to Alastair Oldroyd, the CHIS (police informant) found dead next to a high building from which he either jumped or was pushed. This scene was the significant sign off to episode one.

Also close to the body was the now ubiquitous PC Ryan Pilkington. More on him later.

AC-12 led by, on this occasion, a remarkably unprofessional Superintendent Ted Hastings, and assisted by Acting DI Steve Arnott and emerging star, DC Chloe Bishop, grilled DCI Davidson over gross misconduct charges relating to alleged failures during the Operation Lighthouse investigation. There were two competing theories:

(i) Jo Davidson posits that Oldroyd killed Banks and then committed suicide, and argues in support that the timeline, and rate of decomposition of Banks’ body, backs this hypothesis.

(ii) Ted Hastings isn’t buying that: He argues that she appears not to have considered a more plausible theory, namely that Banks was hired to kill Gail Vella by the organised crime group. Then Banks was killed by the OCG to silence him, after he started bragging about involvement in the death of the journalist. Oldroyd was framed for his murder, and also bumped off, thus stymying any further police information or investigation.

Jo was accompanied by her Police Federation representative DCI John Rix. But, in spite of his formidable presence, she was arrested, on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, at the conclusion of the interview.

She was later de-arrested and released from custody, on Hastings’ say so, seemingly no longer under suspicion, and after lovelorn PS Jatri was implicated in corruption. Jo Davidson, at the end of her tense interview had invited AC-12 to search the homes, cars and electronic devices of Farida, Ian Buckells, DS Chris Lomax and CHIS handler, DS Marks.

During a search of the property of Farida Jatri, DC Bishop and the Central Police Forensic Investigation Unit uncovered a stash of unregistered burner phones. Subsequent analysis of these phones by the force’s Cyber Crime Unit (some dramatic licence needed here) reveals that those same phones made calls at the exact same time the intelligence from Alastair Oldroyd was received in the murder incident room. DNA on the phones also matches to PS Jatri, her biometric data being held on police systems for crime scene elimination purposes.

However, Jo was seen being driven away by PC Pilkington, from Decker Avenue police station, where she was being held, and taken to retrieve her car. She immediately drove to a deserted underpass and collected a boxed burner phone, from a shady looking bearded man in a blue van. Casting suspicion on her once more. It appears to be similar to the ones ‘found’ in PS Jatri’s house (formerly shared with Jo).

The episode ended with Jo Davidson having what appears to be a breakdown, banging her fists on the windows of the car in which she is sitting and screaming in anger and frustration.

In the meantime, newly promoted Steve Arnott (now an acting detective inspector) had driven over to Liverpool to visit Stephanie Corbett, widow of the central figure in season five, Detective Sergeant John Corbett. Whose throat was, of course, slit open in a gory scene near the end of the final episode. By none other than Ryan Pilkington. The reason for the visit was not clear, although Steve had spotted Steph leaving AC-12 HQ with Ted Hastings earlier in the piece.

After her husband was killed, Steph helped clear Ted Hastings when he was under investigation by AC-3. At the very end of the last series, Ted handed her an envelope, which some say contained £50,000 of OCG money.

The question of whether there was intimacy between Steph and Steve, during the protracted home visit, was left hanging in the air. Arnott, of course, has ‘previous’ for either overplaying his charms or succumbing to female temptation.

More questions than answers:

Is DCI Joanne Davidson a corrupt cop or is she being blackmailed

The question that now underpins all others: The answer is probably both. No officer, centrally involved in any of the previous seasons of Line of Duty has escaped from AC-12’s clutches. There have been strong inferences throughout the first two episodes that link Jo to organised criminals and, by default, to the remaining senior police officer(s) in league with them. She also appeared more familiar with Pilkington than one might expect from a newly installed member of her Operation Lighthouse team. Once seated in the car together, he immediately asked her whether she knew of the finds at Farida’s house and her subsequent arrest. To which she responds, “Well that’s what happens to a rat”. Words not dissimilar to what was said straight after John Corbett’s murder. Ryan, bizarrely, appeared to be posted outside the interview room whilst PS Jatri’s was interviewed by Hastings and Co.

What led to the death of Gail Vella

Gail Vella was shot dead, at point blank range, outside her home in the Kingsgate area on 10th September, 2019. One bullet in the back of the head, execution style. That area of town has featured prominently in past and present series of Line of Duty. The initial murder suspect, Terry Boyle, lives there – and it was also the location of a printing and forgery business run by an OCG, infiltrated by DS John Corbett before he turned ‘rogue cop’.

She was a prominent TV journalist, working on several lines of enquiry about police corruption and organised crime. In the latest episode, as much more was learned of the Vella enquiries, Chloe Bishop reviewed film of Gail’s televised reports on previous investigations into OCG’s and corrupt officers in the Central Police force area.

As Steve Arnott says: “Gail Vella drew attention to links between organised crime, politicians and senior police officers; and these are just the reports we found in our own archive.”. Operation Lighthouse detectives had two theories: It was either a contract killing, a ‘professional hit’; or she was gunned down in cold blood by a crazed fan or stalker.

It was also discovered that Gail’s notes and files have gone missing – suggesting that someone was trying to conceal her work. A/DI Arnott and DC Bishop met with Vella’s producer, Nadaraja, who provides an important new lead: Her home may have been burgled and ransacked, before or following her murder, and key tape recordings removed including one of a tell-all podcast containing material that mainstream media would not air. A dummy laptop was left behind by the intruders to allay suspicion. Detectives at Hillside Lane Police Station had not recorded any of this during their investigation.

Another theory doing the rounds is a potential illicit relationship between Jo Davidson and Gail, that, maybe, is now being used as leverage to blackmail the senior detective. It would also lend support to Farida’s contention that Jo had a roving eye and a propensity to be unfaithful.

What lines of enquiry was Gail Vella following?

  • The inquest into the police shooting of Karim Ali, who was killed by officers in series one.
  • Karim Ali’s wife reported that police gave her husband no chance to surrender before he was gunned down.
  • Line of Duty fans may recall that Steve Arnott was part of this tactical unit, led by (as he was then) Chief Inspector Philip Osborne.
  • Osborne asked officers to lie about their actions during that operation, which led to the transfer of Arnott from Counter Terrorism to Anti-Corruption.
  • Philip Osborne is now Central Police’s Chief Constable and Gail Vella was challenging the official police line.
  • She also reported on the trial of retired chief superintendent Patrick Fairbank, who featured centrally in series three. Fairbank suppressed police investigations into child sexual exploitation, which implicated prominent local politicians, including Council Leader, Dale Roche.
  • Gail was also questioning police findings over Operation Peartree, which as outlined previously, saw John Corbett going undercover to investigate links between the OCG and senior police officers. Corbett was fixated on Ted Hastings being ‘H’ (read more here in the episode one recap).

Who is the voice on Gail Vella’s podcast

After the interview with Nadaraja, Arnott discovers that, before she was killed, Gail Vella was interviewing key figures for a freelance venture, centred on police corruption and cover-ups. Her original laptop appears to have been stolen in the burglary, but the decoy laptop left in its place has retained part of an audio file of her podcast, which includes Gail speaking to a mystery voice: “There are some people we can’t challenge,” the man says, before the tape cuts out.

Sharped-eared fans are emphatic that the voice belongs to Jimmy Lakewell. He is the lawyer from series four, who defended both DCI Roz Huntley and her husband, Nick.

Lakewell was revealed to be one of the group behind the attack by ‘Balaclava Man’ (DS John Corbett), with his known links to the OCG, whom attacked Steve Arnott with a baseball bat and threw him down three flights of stairs. The smooth, but tricky, Jimmy was sent to prison at the end of that series, after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice.

The same balaclavas that appeared in the opening scenes of episode one, worn by the robbers raiding the local bookmaker’s shop. The young, petty criminals appear to have been recruited as stooges by the OCG.

Is Chloe Bishop the daughter of Tony Gates?

Those with good memories, or like me have recently re-watched Line of Duty from end to end, may remember that DCI Tony Gates, the original bent and OCG blackmailed copper, from series one in 2012, had a daughter called Chloe.

Gates’ daughter would be roughly DC Bishop’s age and Chloe could easily have changed her surname to protect her identity when applying to join the police.

The likeness of a photograph from that era, compared to the present day Chloe, cannot be discounted. Either way, she has been a valuable addition to the show’s regular cast.

Ryan Pilkington – cop or robber?

Featured in the margins of Line of Duty series five, as a fully seasoned member of the OCG, Ryan has returned as a bent copper in The Hill’s Murder Investigation Team (MIT) as PS Jatri’s replacement on Operation Lighthouse.

He is recognised by Kate Fleming, but she can’t seem to remember where from. Or is that what we are being led to believe? In one scene, as it cuts away from her police computer it can be seen on the screen that she is viewing his internal police record. Which might infer she still retains her AC-12 access rights to such records.

The Ryan Pilkington character was first introduced in series one, as a ‘hoodie’ running errands on a BMX bike for the OCG. In episode four he tried to cut off Steve Arnott’s fingers with industrial pliers. If the newly promoted inspector has clocked him, he’s not letting on.

At the end of the last series the young thug had been accepted without demur, it seems, into training college as a student police officer. From which one might fairly conclude, his file on police systems, and his association with serious criminals from a young age, had been wiped.

Kate Fleming straight or spy?

Some viewers, including me, suspect that Kate is, actually, under deep cover, and that’s not just the bedsheets. Is she straight, lesbian or bi-sexual. Does it matter? Not really. Her interest in developing a closer, personal relationship with Jo Davidson may well be a very cleverly acted ploy.

As is the repeated distancing of herself from her former anti-corruption colleagues. A unit in which she was an integral part, and highly commended for her resourcefulness and bravery, over the past eight years or so.

For example, was tipping off Jo Davidson, that she is under investigation by AC-12, intended to curry favour before delving further into organised crime and its corrupt influence on the police, to which her new boss appears to be, at the very least, adjacent?

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over next five episodes. Buckle in at 9pm tonight, BBC One.

Page last updated: Sunday 4th April, 2021 at 1615 hours

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.

Picture credits: BBC, World Productions (Steffan Hill)

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Supreme Court rules against bereaved family

A judgment handed down on 30th March, 2021, by the Supreme Court, means that the family of Andrew Stephen HALL, a 43 year old Huddersfield man who died following police custody in 2016, will not see the officers give evidence about the incidents leading up to his death, writes Neil Wilby.

At a pre-inquest hearing in June, 2019, the Assistant Coroner for West Yorkshire (Western Area), Oliver Longstaff, ruled that, as part of special measures to preserve the anonymity of sixteen police officers, they would be allowed give their evidence screened from all but the coroner, the jury and the legal representatives of the interested parties.

This decision became the subject of protracted legal proceedings and arguments for and against have been heard, successively, at the Administrative Court in Leeds, where the judge overturned the ruling, then at the Court of Appeal where the law lords, on a majority decision, quashed the judicial review finding (read more here).

The press office at the Supreme Court say that an application to challenge that decision was refused earlier this week on the grounds that ‘there was no arguable point of law’.

The inquest touching the death of Mr Hall will now open at Bradford Crown Court on Monday 19th April, 2021, where two courtrooms will be in use for what is scheduled to be a ten week hearing. It was originally listed to be heard in November, 2019. If permission to appeal had been granted by the Supreme Court it would have meant a further delay of well over a year (read more here).

The picture shows the inside of a courtroom, at neighbouring Leeds Crown Court, featuring the measures in place to counter the effects of the virus epidemic.

Legal costs for all parties to the inquest are expected to have topped £1 million before the inquest opens. Freedom of information requests have been made to those expected to have spent the most, notably West Yorkshire Police, the Police Federation of England and Wales, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and Bradford Council (host authority of the coroner’s office). It has been heard, at pre-inquest hearings, that Mr Hall’s family have been funded, largely, by the Legal Aid Agency.

Page last updated: Saturday 3rd April, 2021 at 0915 hours

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.

Picture Credit: Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service

This article contains public sector information licensed under Open Government Licence v3.0 (read more here).

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oldham Council Leader slams ‘dog-whistle racists’ and ‘false accusers’.

In a hard-hitting post on his Facebook page yesterday, Sean Fielding delivered a robust blow to critics in the town who have subjected him, his partner and his family to months of persistent, unacceptable harassment and abuse, writes Neil Wilby.

This includes the most grotesque allegations of covering up child-sex abuse in the town, and said to be in concert with many other fellow Labour Party members, councillors, the police and their other partner agencies. As this highly forensic article sets out, elsewhere on this website, there is no factual, or evidential, basis to such claims (read here).

This is the full text of Cllr Fielding’s post:

” The election period has started this week and so my page has been renamed ‘Sean Fielding, Labour & Co-operative’ as I am a candidate.

“Prior to campaigning beginning in earnest, I am setting out that my campaign will focus on local issues.

“This election is about who has the best vision for Failsworth and Oldham. It is about who can get things done for people.

“In the last two years alone I have successfully secured the protection of local green belt, saved the Failsworth to Ashton bus from being cut, donated money to the refurbishment of the War Memorial, obtained investment in local roads, had money spent on refurbishing a local park, got the Council to transfer land at Moston Brook in to a Trust set up in memory of WWI veterans, joined a local Primary School Governing Body, volunteered at the vaccination centre, distributed emergency food from the food bank and reinstated the youth service at Failsworth School.

“All this alongside, as Council Leader, working to bring our buses under public control, supporting local businesses by fighting local lockdown last autumn and negotiating a low price to purchase the Spindles Shopping Centre, which will provide the springboard for our Borough’s recovery.

“I posted recently about the smears, disinformation and bullying tactics that have unfortunately become a feature of local politics in recent months. I had hoped that my post would be taken as a stake in the ground for decency, but no such luck, as the smears, abuse and disinformation has continued with my partner even attacked online for planning to run the London Marathon for a cancer charity.

“Many reading this will be familiar with the smears and will have seen the abuse. You will have seen the unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, the crying of ‘mismanagement’ without giving any credible examples, and the dog whistle racism of suggesting there are shadowy Asian ‘cartels’ that secretly control the Council. You will have seen the comments calling for me to be hung and the encouragement of, and support expressed for, people to assemble and protest outside my house.

“If you hear from people campaigning for one side why the other side is no good, ask them to tell you why and back it up with evidence.

“If you hear them say that they don’t agree with what I, or the Council, have done as a Councillor or Leader ask them what they would do instead.

“And if they make allegations of corruption, or worse, ask them why they are telling you or posting it on Facebook rather than reporting it to the authorities.

“If you are genuinely worried about something you’ve seen or read and want to speak about any local issues I can be contacted any time by clicking ‘send e-mail’ at the top of this page.

“I am a member of the Labour Party, and proud to be so. I work with my Labour colleagues from all over Oldham and beyond to get the best deal for both Failsworth and the Borough as a whole.

“We have a comprehensive manifesto covering all areas of Council work. If you don’t like what is in it when you get to see it, by all means vote for somebody else, that’s democracy. All I ask is that you do so based on the issues, facts and credible evidence”.

In addition to the allegations regarding a grooming ‘cover-up’, and a whole range of other perceived financial misdemeanours, Cllr Fielding has been the subject of a large number of complaints to such as the Council, the Labour Party, the Information Commissioner and the same local police force with whom it is said, by his small group of accusers, to be in concert with him over concealing sex abuse. Not a single complaint has been upheld (read more here).

One of his persistent accusers is Mark Wilkinson, whom opposes Cllr Fielding in the Failsworth West ward as ‘an elected candidate’ for the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), run by his wife, Kathleen. As will be noted by those who clicked on the ‘Barking up the wrong tree‘ link, Mark is a retired police sergeant, whom, nevertheless, misled his employers in the course of one of those complaint processes. Hardly a matter that will inspire trust amongst the locals.

Cllr Fielding, a local lad born and bred, won the Failsworth seat in 2012, at his first attempt, and was elected Council Leader in 2018. The FIPs, for their part, appear to have no other recognisable policy other than their personal distaste for their near neighbour. They have one sitting councillor, Brian Hobin, who frequently embarrasses himself with the same child sex abuse ‘cover-up’, and more general anti-Sean Fielding/Labour, narrative. To an extent, viewed through this lens at least, that transcends conventional political rivalry.

Another child sex ‘cover-up’ proponent is also standing against Cllr Fielding: Warren Bates, who previously served on the Council as a United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) representative with very little distinction, other than a bullying finding against him by the Standards Committee – and the embarrassment of being caught parking in a disabled bay outside the Civic Hall. He describes on social media a cabal of ‘Capitalist cover-up journalists’ in Oldham and the wider region of Greater Manchester – and adds, with emphasis, ‘You know nothing’.

Having written and published over 40,000 words on the various societal and political issues afflicting Oldham, reviewed hundreds of documents, interviewed dozens of people, one might fairly conclude that Neil Wilby does know at least something?

For my part, in what has never been anything else but a dogged search for the truth (read more here), I am variously accused by the same group of malcontents that harass Cllr Fielding, of accepting bribes; being on the Oldham Council payroll (or in the pay of the Labour Party, depending upon which day it is); in the pocket of Jim McMahon MP; Cllr Fielding’s (or Cllr Arooj Shah‘s) puppet; bent; septic; a criminal with convictions; a divi; a nonce; a psychopath; despised by everyone. All without a scrap of evidence to support them. Reported by the same group to the police on at least four occasions (none of which resulted in even a voluntary interview, which I would have been willing to attend, if so invited).

But in the face of those grotesque ad hominem attacks, and wasting of police time, no-one has said either publicly, or to me in private communication: That fact is wrong, that piece of evidence is flawed or doctored, you have no proper journalistic basis for the articles you have written. Given right of reply, those exposed as liars, frauds or malcontents (or all three) spurn the invitation.

As Cllr Fielding notes, if you see such allegations, ask those making them about their motive. Why is it that they fear the truth so much? Where is the evidence behind their shocking accusations. Simply repeating them in a small, but noisy, Facebook forum, or via dozens of anonymous Twitter trolling accounts set up for that sole purpose, does not pass muster.

As for my professional relationship with Cllr Fielding, it is this: He is the Leader of a Council in an area in which I have been active as a journalist for almost a year. Contact with such officials is routine when following my vocation. For example, I rank Sean Fielding alongside Cllr Carl Les, long-term leader of North Yorkshire County Council and a staunch Conservative. Both men, decades apart in age and experience, poles apart in terms of political allegiance, are personable, approachable, courteous, respectful, as helpful as possible within the strict parameters of their roles; open and transparent, more generally.

In passing, the same could also be said of Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Oldham, based on my limited dealings with him.

In this life, respect is earned. Those politicians, blue, red and yellow, have mine – and it is hoped that such professional regard is reciprocated. But, as all three would doubtless confirm, it goes no further than that. They would not countenance anything improper, for sure; and for what little it matters, in the wider scheme of things, neither would I.

Who wins out in Failsworth West on Thursday 6th May, 2021 is a matter for registered voters in the ward. Most will get to talk to all of the candidates on their own doorstep and ask questions, or raise concerns, about what is most important to them. Time-honoured foundation stones of election campaigning. Freedom of speech and free choice at the ballot box.

Some may ask, of course, about the allegations of wrongdoing. That is a matter entirely between constituents and their ward candidates. A point to factor in before the casting of votes.

To be clear: There is no dog for this journalist in that fight, other than democracy being a hill worth dying on. Abuse, harassment and intimidation cannot be allowed to sustain in any election.

Warren Bates and Mark Wilkinson were both offered right of reply. The latter did not respond, Mr Bates says:

“Mr Wilby, if you actually wanted to do something useful, instead of covering up for the incompetence of so called present day lazy journalists, bits of kids desperately trying to catch faceless editors’ eyes, give at least one update on the [Oldham Strand of the Assurance] Review how many interviews have taken place?”

There was a further inference (and not for the first time from Mr Bates) that ‘rewards’ (or bribes) are involved for publishing work concerning child sex abuse in Oldham, that he casually characterises as a ‘cover-up’.

The question Mr Bates asks regarding ‘interviews’ was comprehensively and very publicly addressed in November, 2020. Read the full Oldham Council statement here. It was, in fact, his friend and ‘cover-up’ co-conspirator, Cllr Hobin, whom moved the motion, in full council, at which that same statement was debated.

Less than a week later, Greater Manchester Police issued an update on three investigations flowing from the Assurance Reviews, either completed or in progress (read more here). Operation Hexagon specifically focuses on Oldham was instigated in November, 2019 to look into the allegations of a ‘CSE cover-up’ by the Council (and the same police force). Operation Green Jacket and Operation Exmoor are focusing on historic child sex abuse offences South Manchester and Rochdale.

Page last updated: Thursday 1st April, 2021 at 1125 hours

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.

Picture credit: Bolton News

© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.