Legal letter stuns Party Leaders into silence

On 27th April, 2021, an article published elsewhere on this website (read in full here), and headlined ‘A Dirty Business‘, revealed, exclusively, an acrimonious dispute between the Leader of Oldham Metropolitan District Council and a fledgling political party in his local ward, writes Neil Wilby.

Just a couple of days earlier, the sniping on the doorsteps of the two wards in Failsworth, East and West, and on social media, had reached fever pitch. The Failsworth Independent Party (FIPs) issued a Statement on their official website, and on their Party Facebook page, attacking Cllr Sean Fielding, the aforementioned Leader, and his activists, over what they considered to be a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign.

It was on much the same theme as a podcast released by the FIPs a week earlier.

A letter amplifying those claims was hand delivered to Cllr Fielding’s home on the morning of 24th April, 2021.

Cllr Fielding, who is also Labour Party Leader for the Oldham Borough, is one of three incumbents in the West ward and is up for re-election in the poll set to be decided on Thursday 6th May, 2021. He is opposed by, amongst others, Mark Wilkinson, whom not only represents the FIPs as a candidate, he is married to its Chairperson and driving force, Kathleen Wilkinson.

It is obvious to most observers, with even a passing knowledge of Failsworth’s local affairs, that there is bad blood between the Wilkinsons and Sean Fielding. Much of the criticism of the country’s youngest council leader, by a group attaching itself to the FIPs, is highly personalised and, in the cold light of day, lacks substance or an evidential foundation.

The same can be said of the FIPs Statement. Made even more surprising when one considers that Mark Wilkinson was a police officer for 32 years.

Both before, and after, the publication of ‘A Dirty Business‘ Mark and Kath Wilkinson were both, publicly and privately, asked to back up the claims made in their Statement. A lot of it simply didn’t ring true to an investigative journalist. The ensuing silence has been deafening and, since the article appeared, they have not referred to that Statement since. In public, at least.

In that same article, Cllr Fielding, as part of his right to reply, provided a brief but firm rebuttal to the allegations and, further, indicated that matter had been referred to a solicitor for a full dissemination.

This is the full text of the resultant lawyer’s letter, dated 30th April, 2021, and emailed to the FIPs on the same day.

It was provided by Cllr Sean Fielding, upon request, with no restrictions on its reproduction here. It significantly aids understanding of the matters in issue, between the warring factions, and its release very much serves the public interest.

It was addressed to Kathleen Wilkinson, Chairperson, at the Party’s registered address.

“Dear Sirs

Re: Our Client Sean Fielding

We act for the Association of Labour Councillors and have been approached by Councillor Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, for assistance.

We have been shown a copy of your letter dated 24th April 2021.

Your letter asks that our client “treat this letter as a Cease and Desist Action”. It goes on to say that “this is in accordance with Electoral Code of Conduct for campaigners”.

The next paragraph reads: the Legislation states that during the campaign period a campaigner must not “knowingly make a false statement about the character of a candidate”. It is clear you [Cllr Fielding] have contravened this rule.

Your letter to our client is very puzzling both in its language and its intentions but we will attempt to answer the claims set out in that letter as they are presented.

You have referred to the “Electoral Code of Conduct for campaigners” and a “Cease and Desist Action”. It would appear that you have conflated two different procedures. A “cease and desist” letter would normally be sent as a precursor to warn that a claim in defamation was contemplated. However, you make no mention of such of claim in your letter of 24th April.

If you seek to rely on this letter as a Pre-Action Letter we must advise that the letter fails at all levels to comply with the protocol referred to as the Pre-Action Protocol for Media & Communication Claims. Therefore, we cannot treat this letter as a Pre Action letter in defamation nor make the required response in accordance with the protocol.

You refer to “The legislation” and we must assume that you refer to the Representation of the People Act, 1983.

We make this assumption because you use the words “make a false statement about the character of a candidate”. However, you have misquoted the legislation which you consider applies to the purported actions of our client in relation to Mark Wilkinson and the Failsworth Independent Party.

We refer you to the Representation of the People Act, 1983, Section 106: False Statements as the Candidate, paragraph 1: a person who or any director of any body or association corporates which – (a) before or during the election; (b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election make or publishes any false statement or facts in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he has reasonable grounds for believing and did believe that statement to be true.

You can see, from the wording of this section of the Act, that it is very limited in its relevance and, thus, very difficult to demonstrate that it is applicable. We refer you to the Phil Woolas case in 2010. In that case, the judgment set out the clear interpretation of this Section 106. Mr Justice Teare’s judgement suggested that in order to prove that a statement is in contravention of Section 106 it is vital to ask the following four questions:-

  1. Has a statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in an election been made
  2. Is that statement false?
  3. Does the person making the statement believe it is true?
  4. Did he have reasonable grounds to believe it was true when he made it?

We would robustly defend any allegation made under Section 106 of the RPA 1983 against our client, Councillor Fielding, relying on these criteria. If the answers to questions 3 and 4 can be answered positively as we believe they can, such a case against our client would fail.

Your request is in 3 parts. You say that:
1) our client has referred to the Failsworth Independent Party as a racist party 2) our client has said your candidate Mark Wilkinson is a racist.

However, in your letter of 24th April 2021 you have provided no reliable evidence to substantiate these two claims. In addition, section 106 of the Act applies only to the personal character or conduct of a candidate, therefore statements about political parties do not fall within its remit.

For a successful prosecution under Section 106 of the 1983 Act you would have to demonstrate with evidence that our client and his “campaigners” have referred to Mark Wilkinson as racist. You have not provided such evidence and we consider that none exists. Secondly, you would have to demonstrate that such a statement was false. Thirdly, you would need to prove that our client did not believe that this was a true statement and finally that he had no reasonable grounds to believe that that was true.

Towards the end of your letter you say “as a seasoned campaigner you should be aware that your actions “do not bring into question the integrity of the electoral process”. We assume there is, in there, somewhere, a typographical error which, if corrected, would make sense of this sentence.

Further your letter states “whilst out campaigning on the doorstep of a Failsworth resident, it was falsely stated that Mark Wilkinson had assaulted your father – Mr Stuart Fielding”.

You have failed to provide details of this allegation to facilitate a proper response. However, we refer you to the count on the evening of the Failsworth by-election on the 29 November 2018. Our client’s father was in conversation with Mr Wilkinson who, apparently, became irritated and grabbed his father’s arm. Our understanding is that our client’s father approached the police present to state that Mr Wilkinson had attempted to assault him. We understand that no formal report was made.

We consider that this will be ample evidence to demonstrate that in fact our client did believe that Mr Wilkinson had assaulted his father and he had reasonable grounds to believe so.

In the interest of openness and transparency, we put you on notice that our client has been in discussions with Greater Manchester Police about pursuing a criminal harassment complaint against individuals, including Mr Wilkinson. This is in connection with [an alleged] 3 year defamatory social media smear and harassment campaign against our client.

Finally, in response to your letter of 24th April, we aver that none of our client’s actions have brought, or are likely to bring, into question the integrity of the electoral process and we insist that you cease and desist from making such scurrilous allegations against him forthwith.

Yours faithfully

Edwards Duthie Shamash

Ends”

As legal responses go, that is definitely in the ‘very robust’ category. It also highlights how seriously misconceived, and amateurish, the FIPs Statement was. Both in its construction and intent.

Regrettably, it once again highlights poor conduct from Mark Wilkinson (read more here) and aligns with feedback from two officers who worked with him during his time as a detective in nearby Chadderton and at Ashton-under-Lyne.

Underscored by a highly respected police station solicitor whom, also, encountered him in that era. All three characterised ‘Wilkie’ as an arrogant, boorish individual of, seemingly, limited ability. If a view to counterbalance those can be found, it (or they) will be published in an update to this piece.

On the very clear evidence of recent Twitter exchanges, and as set out in the ‘Barking Up The Wrong Tree’ article, Mark has a non-exclusive relationship with the truth.

As the Twitter post posits, the fitness for public office of Wilkinson is now very much open to question. His claims of openness, transparency and integrity now lying in tatters and a matter for the local electorate of Failsworth West to reflect upon.

Up to the time of publication of this article, shortly after the polls closed, no reply from the Wilkinsons had been received by Cllr Fielding’s solicitors.

The Failsworth Independent Party have again been offered right to reply to this article, via and email sent to their Chairperson and Mark Wilkinson. A number of questions were also put to them:

1. In the light of the contents of the solicitor’s letter written on behalf of Cllr Fielding will you:

a. Be withdrawing your Statement published on 24th April?

b. Or amending it?

c. Making a public apology to Cllr Fielding?

d. Publish the solicitor’s letter on your Facebook page and or on your website?

e. Be replying to the letter?

2. On your website, and elsewhere, Failsworth Independent Party make claims regarding ‘integrity, openness and transparency’. 

That is plainly and demonstrably a false claim to make. Therefore:

a. Can you please provide a date by which the relevant lozenge on the Home page will be amended and removed?

b. Will you be amending or withdrawing all such claims made by your party officials or representatives where such claims have been made?

3. Your Party appears to be irredeemably wedded to the CSE ‘cover-up’ narrative by police and council in Oldham, largely propagated by Tameside political activist, Raja Miah. In that light, the following issues arise:

a. Mr Wilkinson confirm, as a former Greater Manchester Police detective and long term Oldham resident, what he knew of child sex abuse being perpetrated in the town and the said cover-up by police and council either as a serving officer or post-retirement. Also, when he first became aware of the ‘cover-up’ and to whom he reported those concerns. It would be particularly helpful if Mr Wilkinson was able to name officers alleged to be part of said ‘cover-up’. There is no suggestion direct, or inferred, that Mr Wilkinson was part of that ‘cover-up’, most particularly as all the evidence suggests it didn’t exist.

b. As a former detective, serving locally both at Chadderton and Ashton-under-Lyne (a regional posting), has Mr Wilkinson either himself, or possibly in concert with other former GMP officers wedded to the same ‘cover-up’ narrative (Peter Jackson [who served in Oldham] and Paul Shilton spring immediately to mind) undertaken an investigation to either prove, or disprove it. Or to challenge the findings of my own extensive investigations? 

‘Get the white vote angry’ – Neil Wilby

b. Brian Hobin, your sole elected councillor (at the time of writing, of course), has been a taxi driver for a good number of years, licensed by the Council. When did he first became aware of child sex abuse being perpetrated in the town and the aforementioned cover-up by police and council and to whom did he raise concerns? The occupation of taxi-driver is linked to the CSE problem in other towns in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire either as witness or perpetrator. There is absolutely no suggestion that Cllr Hobin would be anything other than a witness or an important conduit for information on such grotesque crimes.

A written response was requested in the first instance with an offer of further discussion, in an interview to tape or camera, at the election count at the Civic Centre.

No response was received from either Kathleen or Mark Wilkinson. They have previously declined all other rights of reply and, consistently, refused to answer questions asked of them.

Apparently speaking on their behalf, their son Ryan Wilkinson made a series of offensive and defamatory posts on social media regarding this article and its author. They are not reproduced here as they will form part of legal action to be taken against him. The gist of his posts are that Neil Wilby:

(i) Has ‘made up another sensationalist, click bait headline’. It appears to be plainly and neutrally written from the body text. It did not, and, quite easily, could have picked out the ‘racist’ and ‘assault’ allegations made against Mark Wilkinson.

(ii) Is, or was, ‘clearly on the payroll’ of Sean Fielding. Palpably untrue.

(iii) Is unemployed and ‘will be reporting to the Jobcentre on Monday’. Palpably untrue.

(iv) Lies for a living (which runs counter to the unemployed assertion at paragraph (iii) above). Which is palpably untrue.

(v) Needs to ‘get a life and a proper job’. Journalism is generally regarded as a vocation or profession. It can give a rewarding life, too. For example, campaigning for the homeless, against child poverty and rehabilitation of offenders.

(vi) Needs to stop trying to discredit and harass people. As with his parents, the allegation is absent of specification or evidence.

(vii) Is a ‘charlatan’. No further details tendered.

These allegations are remarkably similar to those regularly posted by a seemingly endless series of anonymous Twitter accounts that seek to defend the FIPs on social media.

Wilkinson, 31 years old, and his business partner, Holly Cuthbert, 32, have a short, but chequered, business history. One of their company ventures was compulsorily struck off in 2016 and a second company went into liquidation owing creditors £169,000. Lloyds Bank were owed £85,000.

He has no entry on LinkedIn that suggests he is in employment and his Twitter bio is absent of similar details.

Right of reply was offered to Ryan Wilkinson. The correspondence address given for him at Companies House is the headquarters of the Failsworth Independent Party at 282, Lord Lane, Failsworth, M35 0PG.

On a night of shocks for the Labour Party across the country, Sean Fielding lost his seat on the Council by 191 votes. In a short statement, in the early hours of Friday 7th May, he said:

“Whilst tonight is obviously disappointing the voters of Failsworth West have spoken.

“It is no secret that I have been saddened by the campaign both politically and personally.

“I have served Failsworth as a Councillor for nine years, ensuring local green belt is protected, reinstating local youth services and saving vital local bus routes.

“I have also been privileged to serve the Borough as Council Leader for the past three years, steering Oldham through the unprecedented challenge presented by CoVID and developing a new vision for the town centre.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve as a Labour Council during my time as Leader. All at a time of savage austerity cuts to vital public services.

“And I’m also proud that I’ve been ambitious for Oldham, the town where I was born and brought up, and where I still call home. That ambition is unwavering, although I’m no longer serving as Leader. The people of Failsworth and of Oldham deserve the very best”

Page last updated at 1845hrs on Friday 7th May, 2021.

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‘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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© 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.

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.

A Sign of The Times

In a country where its Prime Minister is a serial liar, not telling the truth is no longer a BIG thing, writes Neil Wilby.

Likewise, in Greater Manchester, where the Mayor, Andy Burnham, is caught out, by his critics, decorating the truth with troubling frequency, particularly over his grotesque failure to hold the region’s chief constable to account.

At the eastern edge of that same region sits Mossley, the former West Riding mill town turned upmarket commuter haven, nestling against the Pennine hills. Its most infamous resident also tells lies. Lots of them. Big fat ones. Persistently and mendaciously. Almost every time he pens a post on Facebook or transmits his ludicrous weekend Recusant Nine podcast.

To the extent that a self-styled political activist, Raja Miah, about which much is written elsewhere on this website, is seeking to make an industry of it: The more outrageous the fabrication, the greater the amount of money he hopes to extract from his ‘supporters’.

A business model that failed to impress Facebook, whom have recently banned him from monetising his depressingly makeshift content on their social media platform. Another giant network, the Google-owned YouTube, is also currently reviewing his discredited output on the the same basis (read more here). The two most recent Miah podcasts have been removed from their channel as a result of defamation complaints.

His divisive hatred, directed towards sections of Asian communities under an opaque veil of ‘exposing’ grooming and organised crime gangs, without, it seems, the necessary credible, original evidence, has particular appeal to the notorious far-right element in the neighbouring Borough of Oldham (read more here).

Lie after lie was forensically unpicked in that lengthy piece of investigative journalism, and fatally undermined Miah’s credibility across large tracts of the population in the East Lancashire mill town, and beyond. The article also enraged the far-right knuckleheads who rely on Raja as their totem.

The latest Miah hobby horse is an attack on the Oldham Times, one of the two main print media outlets in the town. The other is the Oldham Evening Chronicle. Both have seen better days, as the rot that beset the regional newspaper industry over ten years ago now looks terminal in an increasing number of cases.

The Times is  controlled by Newsquest Media Group Ltd and ultimately owned by Gannett Co, Inc based in the United States of America. The Evening Chronicle is controlled by Credible Media Ltd and run by local man, Matthew Ramsbottom.

By coincidence, the author of this piece is a former area general manager with a predecessor company of Newsquest, Reed Regional Newspapers (a subsidiary of what is now Reed-Elsevier plc). Indeed, the founding chief executive, Jim Brown, was a highly valued mentor, as well as a newspaper industry icon.

Bucking the trend of consolidation or closure, the Times recently moved from weekly to daily publication even though its front pages routinely have the look of a 1990’s free-sheet and the rest of the newspaper appears thin on original worthwhile content.

The source of the latest Miah angst is a lead story, run by the Times on its website, featuring the newly launched election campaign of Cllr Sean Fielding. He is defending a seat in Failsworth West that he has held since 2012. He was elected as Council Leader in 2018, due, in part at least, to being personable, approachable, highly articulate and PR savvy. The university education his working class parents fought so hard for was not entirely wasted, even though he was unable to follow his chosen career path of civil engineering.

Cllr Fielding is one of a number of Labour Party figures in the Oldham area that are under relentless attack from the Miah cohort (read more here).

The Miah response to the home page splash in the Times was surprising, even by his own low standards: On his Recusant Nine page on Facebook he began to repeat the allegation, or imputation, that there was an improper relationship between the Council and the newspaper. He singles out Cllr Fielding and the newspaper’s chief reporter, Nick Jackson, for the usual highly personalised, derogatory, baseless attack. Grounded in the ludicrous assertion that large sums of money change hands and these furtive transfers provide leverage for the council, through its leader, to dictate, or skew, the newspaper’s content.

Nick Jackson’s ‘sin’ is, seemingly, not providing coverage of the Recusant Nine output. Much, if not all of it, lacking an evidential basis to the standard that would withstand a newspaper lawyer’s scrutiny.

His criticism is worded in such a way, some might say deliberately, that the reader might infer that it was taxpayers money that funded, in part at least, the transition from weekly to daily newspaper. There was also a puzzling reference as to what Miah’s claimed ‘sources’ had ‘uncovered so far’ about the alleged financial machinations.

To a journalist, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an important gateway to disclosure from public authorities and the seed from which many stories are cultivated – and so it proved in this particular case: A request was submitted to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and the information subsequently provided was, indeed, surprising (read here).

The finalisation of the FOIA request reveals that the amount spent by Oldham Council with the Oldham Times on advertising is much less than anticipated. Less unexpectedly, there is no financial investment at all. Other enquiries revealed that the Council actually spends more on advertising with the Manchester Evening News.

A senior council spokesman said: “All of the identified spend is for advertising in some form. In the 2020/21 financial year, the overwhelming majority of this advertising spend was related to Coronavirus; for example to raise awareness of public health messages and to encourage people to follow the hands, face, space 
guidance.

“The amount of money spent with local media companies has significantly 
reduced in recent years, in line with the overall reduction of Council 
budgets.

“The majority of the money spent with these companies is on public notices 
– such as planning applications and highways notices – which councils have 
a legal obligation to publish.

“Oldham Council used to publish these notices with the Oldham Chronicle
prior to the daily print edition ceasing in 2017. We now publish these 
notices with the Manchester Evening News, which is owned by Reach plc”.

Interestingly, in June, 2020, the Chronicle made a public appeal to the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham. In an open letter to the Mayor, the owner of the newspaper, Matthew Ramsbottom, said local media organisations need specialist support, particularly at this difficult time, in ensuring that they not only survive, but thrive against the backdrop of faceless big-business (presumably referencing Newsquest and Reach).

For reasons that are unclear, the Chronicle appear, at least in the recent past, to have escaped the Miah vitriol.

Complaints by Raja, to IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) against the Manchester Evening News, resulted in humiliation (read here). They concerned the newspaper’s extensive coverage of the grotesquely failed free schools run by him (read here). The journalist by-lined in that piece, Jennifer Williams, has been subjected to a campaign of harassment on the Recusant Nine platform, ever since.

So, it has come to pass that yet another Raja fallacy has been comprehensively shredded. With remarkably little effort, and by means open to Miah himself, if he was actually interested in backing up his accusations with facts and evidence.

UPDATE: Thirteen hours after this article was published, Miah posted on the Recusant Nine page on Facebook: “As for questionable transactions. Anyone want to spend £1 million on the local press?”. Inferring, yet again, that there is large scale financial impropriety on the part of Oldham Council.

Why let facts get in the way of smearing your political opponents? This is an unremarkable analysis, disclosed by the Council under the Freedom of Information Act, of total amounts spent with the Oldham Times, Oldham Chronicle and Manchester Evening News broken down by year back to 2011/12 (read in full here). It in no way supports any conspiracy theory about undue council, or councillor, influence over the local press. To those who are adjacent to such matters, and the author of this piece is a former area managing director for Johnston Press, the amounts are surprisingly modest.

Page last updated: Saturday 10th April, 2021 at 1055 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: Oldham Times

© 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.

Barking up the wrong tree

In November last year, writes Neil Wilby, an article was published on this website that charted the course of what is now a year long journalistic investigation into alleged serious wrongdoing by police, MPs and local councillors in Oldham, a large Pennine town on the eastern edge of the Greater Manchester region (read in full here).

It was the seventh article in a lengthening series, the intended number was two or, maybe, three, and led to its author being reported to the police last October as a result of a previous article (read here) and, again, earlier this month. Having not heard from the Greater Manchester force in the ensuing four months, apart from, routinely, their press office and information rights team, it is unclear what the specification and substance of those complaints actually are. The person making some of them, Kerry Skelhorn, who works for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and is based in East Anglia, has described me, both on air and on social media, as “a psychopath”. That, apart from being highly defamatory, presents a substantial evidential threshold when the suspect is a man of advancing years with an unblemished criminal record.

As one might infer, it has been a challenging assignment as “psychopath” would not be the most unflattering term used to smear a journalist (“paedophile protector” is amongst the many others), whose published output, following detailed, forensic analysis, many interviews with key figures and scene visits (pre-lockdown, of course), plainly doesn’t marry with the original allegations of a long-running, wide-scale ‘cover-up’ of child sexual exploitation in Oldham (read more here). The reality is that a highly emotive subject has been crudely weaponised by a group of bitter discontents, headed by a man from another Borough, desperate to distract from his own alleged serious wrongdoings.

The latest article also resulted in a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), alongside the local council, and its Leader, Cllr Sean Fielding (pictured below left with Cll Arooj Shah and Jim McMahon MP), whom, it was alleged, had leaked information to assist in the construction of the piece. The complaint did not have evidence to support such an assertion. In reality, it involved painstaking enquiries and a contact with a number of sources, including material from some of the complainants themselves.

It had chronicled the long-running, highly personalised attacks made on Cllr Fielding by a Tameside political activist, Raja Miah, and a group of mostly far-right supporters whom have become collectively known as ‘Raja’s Rabble’ or, simply, as they happily refer to themselves, ‘The Rabble’. All seriously, and it seems, obsessively, occupied by smearing the Labour Party and a number of its prominent members in the area. One of the The Rabble’s most prolific witterers is Jane Barker, a University of Manchester student researcher. She made the data breach complaint to the ICO, via Oldham Council, and has made a number of others of varying specification to the council, the Labour Party and then to the police.

Miah was kicked out of the same Party in August, 2019. His output on social media appears particularly attractive to a far-right audience and one of his main backers is Paul Errock, a local businessman and, from available screenshots, apparently a supporter of Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League (EDL). Another ubiquitous Miah camp follower, and a ‘subscriber’ who sends Miah money every month, is Garry Dunkerley, nearing the end of a six year jail sentence after conviction for burglary, involving a number of vulnerable old people amongst his victims. Dunkerley also has links to the EDL (read more here). He uses at least two pseudonyms on social media, including the notorious “Duggy Dunk” handle.

It has emerged that “Dunk” actually worked alongside Cllr Fielding for a period at the Tesco Superstore in Failsworth (where, in better times, the Full English Breakfast in the first floor cafeteria is heartily recommended). He has shown no remorse over his offending and, perversely, denies causing harm. The disgraceful output on social media should, very arguably, have led to his recall to prison whilst on licence.

Ms Barker (pictured below), much more feminist than far-right, who also sends money to Raja Miah every month, having failed with her perceived grievances at both the council and Labour Party, then made complaints to the police about its local leader that appeared to include a number of very serious matters: Harassment, malicious communication and hate crime. Others, including Mark Wilkinson, a retired police officer turned probation officer, and Mohib Uddin, a tax inspector by day and self-styled ‘political analyst’ at other times, made similar allegations.

They appeared to have little factual or evidential basis, being centred on communications between Sean Fielding and the employers of Barker, Uddin and Wilkinson, but embellished a concurrent publicity stunt, centred around a petition organised by Miah, calling upon the Home Secretary to order the arrest of Sean Fielding. As one might expect of an action so ill-conceived, it gained little traction despite a frenetic campaign on social media by Raja and The Rabble to promote it. But its real purpose was, one might argue, to continue the smearing and campaign of harassment against Cllr Fielding – and to that extent it very likely succeeded.

Unlike Miah, born and spending his early life in Bradford and living in some splendour the upmarket village of Mossley, near Ashton-under-Lyne, since 2004, Sean is working class Oldham born and bred – and never lived, or worked, anywhere else. He was elected to serve the town in 2012 and won a party ballot for council leader in 2018, becoming the youngest in the country to do so.

In contrast, Raja Miah has never stood for public office and is most widely known for his association with two spectacularly failed free schools in Greater Manchester, presently a matter of lengthy and complex police investigation into multi-million pounds fraud allegations. Severely hampered by the almost complete abdication from the required accountancy standards by the school’s operators.

There are also substantial concerns over very serious safeguarding failures at the Miah-run schools (read more here). The MP (and former leader of Oldham Council), Jim McMcMahon has come under relentless, and most unpleasant, attack from Miah and his acolytes ever since. But the Member for Oldham West and Royton, like Cllr Fielding a lifelong local man of solid, working class stock, is made of stern stuff and has repeatedly cut down the Man from Mossley on social media:

“In taking this case on, no-one could have foreseen the vengeance that would follow from Raja Miah and his associates. I know many decent people have been attacked, had their characters dragged through the mud, and felt deeply threatened by his actions. I know too well the impact this can have and the toll it can take but even knowing that I would still pursue this case, knowing what was to follow.

“Politics is about people, and the pupil, parents and staff (of the free schools) who have asked me to be their voice matter to me. I have no intention of letting them down.

“Of course, what follows is now is for the authorities to investigate. I sincerely hope without fear or favour”.

Very powerful, heartfelt commentary, whatever your political persuasion (for the avoidance of doubt this journalist has no affiliation with any political party): Its measured, thoughtful terms making it even more so in the face of the worst, completely unfounded, allegation that he covers up for child sex abuse in the town he has served for just under 20 years, and procures many others in public life to do so. The evidence is very clear: There was no cover-up. Quite the opposite, in fact (read more here).

A recent complaint to Facebook, by Jim McMahon, about the alleged anti-semitic content on the Recusant Nine page, operated by Raja Miah, is set out in a highly detailed, well argued document in which I have been sighted.

In what is a bad to worse week for the Miah camp, it can now be revealed, exclusively, that all the various complaints made against Sean Fielding, to the police, have been marked with ‘No Further Action’. A matter of some relief, no doubt, to him and his family, friends and colleagues, however misconceived and ill-motivated they might have been. He says:

“I was never in any doubt that the allegations against me had no substance and were simply politically motivated, tit for tat complaints. However, the abuse of the criminal justice process, and waste of police time and resources that these investigations were, just so that my political opponents could post online that I was ‘under investigation’ and facing ‘imminent arrest’ is quite shocking. Indeed, it is a criminal offence in itself.

“I will continue to represent my constituents in Failsworth and attend to my wider responsibilities as Leader of the Council with the same enthusiasm and commitment as I always have. I will not be knocked off course by those who have nothing positive to contribute to our Borough, or the wider debate about its future, and whose agenda is simply to disrupt the operation of public services and make outrageous claims online in their quest for validation in the form of Facebook likes.”

The complaints made by Jane Barker to the Information Commissioner also met the same fate, unsurprisingly. As, of course, did those she made to the Council and Labour Party, previously. The Constituency Labour Party adjudicator describing one of her complaints as “mad”.

Which means that the sum of all the serial, vexatious complaints made by her, over the past six months or so, enthusiastically egged on by The Rabble is ZERO, nothing, zilch. Except, perhaps, an arrest for wasting police time? Not least as she has made several threats to at least one other local political commentator, Euan Stewart, to report him to the police (and/or her solicitors) over nothing higher than a difference of opinion on social media regarding information she had put into the public domain. The same police force asserted by Raja Miah as being partners in the alleged CSE cover-up.

Mark Wilkinson, whom along with his wife Kathleen, socialises with another local far-right totem, former UKIP councillor and known bully, Warren Bates (pictured below left with Mr and Mrs Wilkinson), is another serial and oppressive complainer who has, so far, drawn a blank. The Wilkinsons are the founders of the Failsworth Independent Party whose sole policy, and reason for being, appears to be ‘We don’t like Sean Fielding‘. Missing from the photograph is the aforementioned “Duggy Dunk”, another Failsworth man who interacts regularly on social media with these three.

Ex-Lib Dem councillor, Mohib Uddin, is in the same boat. Fond of posting ‘tick-tock‘ when making snide reference to Cllr Fielding on social media, he is now the one running out of time. A source close to him says that action taken by the LibDems to expel him from the Party was stayed, at his request, until the police investigation into the council leader concluded. So, Tameside’s leading ‘political analyst’, according to Raja Miah at least, is a failed councillor shunned by his own party and who has, willingly it seems, collected taxes for the Conservative government for the past 10 years.

Uddin, the Wilkinsons and Ms Barker are all on a list of Recusant Nine supporters submitted to Greater Manchester Police as an intelligence file. It identifies 70 out of the 114 people who send money to Raja Miah every month. Apart from those four named above, the rest of the list includes convicted criminals, EDL members (past or present), far right activists, Tommy Robinson supporters and social media trolls. All of which provides ample justification for raising queries with their employers as to the wisdom of such associations. Particularly, those funded from the public purse or employed by the Crown.

Piling on the misery for Miah and The Rabble, his grotesque child grooming accusations against long-serving councillor and former Mayor, Riaz Ahmad have resulted, in the past week, in a climb down and a humiliating apology. All the deeply offensive posts have now been deleted. But in typical, sly Raja style, the apology was posted just before midnight last Friday.

Completing the Raja Miah nightmare, Deputy Leader of Oldham Council, Arooj Shah, mocked by The Rabble as “The COVID Queen” is well on the way to managing the town out of crisis as portfolio holder for response to the virus epidemic. In a quite remarkable turnaround, Oldham has gone from having the worst infection rate in Greater Manchester to the lowest. In typical fashion, she deflects praise on to her team and just gets on with the job. Cllr Shah was, in fact, the subject of the first Oldham article I wrote last year. It seems a lifetime away, right now. A scathing take down of the evil harassment campaign mounted by Miah and his minions (read in full here) propagated it seems, mostly, because one of her numerous roles in public life is parliamentary assistant to Jim McMahon. The MP remains The Rabble’s number one ‘target’ for abuse.

Regrettably, the dedicated, very hard-working elected female official, another born and bred Oldhamer, is still the subject of mindless accusations and distorted truths. Arooj says: “The unprovoked attacks have been, and continue to be, incredibly difficult for me and those around me, albeit dealing with misogynists isn’t exactly new territory”.

This emphasis on attacking females, highlighted by Cllr Shah, manifested itself yet again recently with a left-field attack on Deputy Mayor, Cllr Jenny Harrison, a very popular retired school teacher and senior manager (pictured below centre with Mayor Ginny Alexander on her right, Arooj Shah to her left). But Jenny wasn’t taking that lying down and gave The Man from Mossley a proper pasting on social media. Her brave stance has emboldened others, previously fearful of standing up to Raja Miah and the inevitable smearing that would follow.

Other females repeatedly derogated by Miah, over past year or so, include Debbie Abrahams MP, journalists Jennifer Williams and Charlotte Green, together with nationally known justice campaigner, and now lawyer, Gail Hadfield Grainger.

An objective reader coming to the end of this piece might well scratch their head in bemusement and say how on earth has Raja Miah, and his motley band of hangers-on, been allowed to get away with this obnoxious, hateful behaviour for so long? As one who sits in the press seats at Magistrates’ and Crown Courts (or logs in via CVP these days) it certainly has me completely baffled: Efforts to persuade the three very senior officers with locus in the Borough, T/DCC Mabs Hussain, ACC Nick Bailey and C/Supt Chris Allsop have so far produced no visible response. But the pressure to do no more than perform the job, for which they are paid handsomely, will continue to be applied in every lawful way possible. They must be in no doubt about that. Victims of the class of crimes and/or civil torts perpetrated by Raja Miah, and others, notably his lieutenant-in-chief, the potty-mouthed Anita Lowe, should not be left alone to seek civil remedies or repeated complaints to social media operators.

I, for one, am old enough to remember when keeping the Queen’s Peace was a job for the police service and one they were keen and proud to undertake.

The highly opinionated but scarcely literate Mrs Lowe, who lived in Failsworth before moving to Littlemoor four years ago, is believed to be behind a number of other anonymous “trolling” Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is her main social media vehicle at present. A file is being prepared for Greater Manchester Police accompanying complaints by way of the Protection from Harassment and Communications Acts:

In one tweet reply to Euan Stewart, she claims that ‘Vote-Watch’ journalist Jay Beecher ‘tells us everything’ and ‘we [Raja’s Rabble] are buddies [with Beecher] you daft brush’.

A former key UKIP activist in the right wing stronghold of Peterborough, before being suspended from the party for making “deliberate and demonstratively false allegations against other members of the party” (read more here), Beecher is, arguably, best known for his editorship of the now banned far-right platform, Politicalite.

Byline Times report that “Politicalite, launched in 2017, mixes sensationalist headlines and alt-right talking points, chiefly around Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as ‘Tommy Robinson’), Muslims and Brexit, attracting around 50,000 visitors a day. It is one of a loose network of nakedly partisan British political websites that have sprung up in the past five years, which include Vote-WatchFoxhole and Point News, as well as Unity News Network“.

Remarkably, and against this backdrop, the “Eliza-Jayne” abusive trolling account is also followed on Twitter by former ITV Granada Reports journalist, Matt O’Donoghue whom, most surprisingly, but regrettably, has ‘previous’ for attaching himself to The Rabble’s cause. Conversely and perversely, he has, in the past, said that he ‘deeply admires’ the investigative journalism on this website.

In an extraordinary reply to this article,  O’Donoghue claims he was ‘inadvertently following a troll’. ‘Sometimes’, he says, ‘I just follow back without doing the due diligence that I should’. Matt does not explain why he is also attached to a number of other abusive, far-right, racist social media accounts, most notably the Neo-nazi enabling ‘Oldham Eye’. He claims, without specification or evidence, that his exposure as being adjacent to the cause of Raja Miah, the false Oldham CSE cover-up narrative (read more here), and the consequent attacks on MPs and local councillors, is ‘a twisted mission to undermine me’. The reply includes no apology, no contrition, no mention of the victims of the relentless trolling and no undertaking to detach himself from the group and put the record straight.

All the more remarkable, given his close friendship with the aforementioned Jen Williams, a regular target for smearing by Miah and his cohort.

Jane Barker, an avid Raja Miah supporter and whom was central in a Jay Beecher authored Vote-Watch article, published in November, 2020, featuring her complaints to the police (and those made by Messrs Uddin and Wilkinson), denies any association with the far-right. All three positioned themselves as ‘anti-grooming gang campaigners’.

There appears to be no factual basis to support such a tagline or any known expertise in such a complex and sensitive area. One might also very fairly ask why their ‘campaign’ only started very recently when child grooming has blighted the town of Oldham since at least 2006 – and the topic has been extensively publicised, and tackled, by local MP’s, the police, the council, specialist investigators and all the local and regional media in the succeeding 15 years?

Ms Barker’s forthcoming blog on the topic, signposted during a recent Raja Miah podcast, may cast some light on those questions.

Page last updated: Tuesday 2nd March, 2021 at 1255 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.

© 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.

There’s no excuse for abuse

These days, in almost every public sector building, business or shop premises there is a notice displayed prominently that says, more or less, ‘we will not tolerate abuse of our staff’. It’s a sign of the times, if the terrible pun can be excused.

It’s the same on public transport – and the illustration I have chosen is seen on buses and trains across parts of the North West.

The rule is quite rigidly enforced and some organisations do not hesitate to call the police. Barring offenders from subject premises is usually automatic. Rightly so.

Abuse of journalists has become an increasing problem over the past few years and my trade body, the National Union of Journalists, which doubles as a professional body, has run a campaign of sorts almost every year since 2014, to try to limit the distress and alarm these attacks cause. Details of the latest NUJ crusade can be read here.

In Oldham, now part of the Greater Manchester region, but forever East Lancashire to some, the problem of abuse of journalists, and other public figures such as MP’s and council officials, appears particularly acute. Surprising, on one ground at least, as the police force in the town constantly promotes campaigns against abuse and hate. But appear very slow to stem the flow from the very worst offenders.

There is no doubt at all about the main source of what is a relentless torrent of highly personalised, harassing abuse: Bradford-born, Raja Miah, now an infamous Oldham political activist, who openly defies the law. His persistent output on social media is highly concerning, both in tone and content, returning to the same narrow topics over and again, straying well beyond fair commentary or legitimate criticism.

The strapline with which he defiantly signs off posts under his Recusant Nine banner is: ‘DO NOT FEAR THEM. DO NOT FEAR ANY OF THEM’. He claims that his previous outlet, Medium, was subject to censorship, but it is unclear to what extent other than, quite likely, to remove offensive, harassing or defamatory material.

There are three journalists currently in his sights, it seems: Nationally-known political editor and commentator, Jennifer Williams, who works for the Manchester Evening News (MEN), but whose byline also appears in a number of national newspapers; Charlotte Green, still based at the MEN where she was previoulsy based, but now a BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporter covering Oldham and Tameside councils; and, more latterly, myself.

Jennifer, who is also a television pundit and newspaper reviewer, is regularly attacked over her perceived inaction regarding the alleged scandals at Oldham Council.

What is not widely known is that the MEN commissioned an investigation into Raja Miah’s business background, and particularly his much criticised stewardship of free schools in Manchester and Oldham. At its conclusion, and given what would be revealed, the MEN hierarchy decided, on health and safety grounds, that the risk of the type of personalised backlash that this would very likely generate against their reporter, post-publication, it was not worth the risk. The article was shelved and the cost of it, in effect, thrown away.

Raja Miah denies any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, over £2 million was siphoned out of the schools, for which the record-keeping falls well below the accepted standard. He was ‘blacklisted’ by the government

The Manchester Evening News did provide coverage of the scandal when it first broke, which resulted in a complaint to the newspaper industry regulator. It was peremptorily dismissed Read in full here) and it was plain, by comparing his submissions to the Department of Education report on the same subject, that Miah had sought to mislead the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Charlotte’s sin is said to be ‘biased’ reporting of Oldham Council meetings and ancillary business. Objectively reviewed, there appears to be no evidential basis for such criticism. Although relatively young, she is fully trained and qualified – and has significant experience of court reporting. As I know well, that is a hard school of knocks. It becomes ingrained to only report what you hear, the consequences of doing otherwise are severe.

The third and now, it seems, main target is the author of this piece and since publication of the first of four articles on 5th October, 2020 (read here) there has been what can only be described as a relentless torrent of highly personalised smears posted, or broadcast, on all of his various outlets: Welcome to Oldham website, podcast and Recusant Nine Facebook page. Aided and abetted by a small army of anonymous, low or no follower foot soldiers, who pop up at all points on social media, now dubbed ‘Raja’s Rabble’.

Most regrettably this has impacted on two others, Gail Hadfield Grainger (read more here) and Samantha Walker-Roberts (read more here), whom he has identified as being associated with me, professionally. He also resumed his grotesque and very public attack against Cllr Arooj Shah. The fact that Gail and Cllr Shah are friends, having first made contact 5 years ago, appears to send the Recusant Miah off the scale. Particularly, as it is widely known that Gail and I have also become friends since first meeting last year.

Taken together, the mindless denigration of these five females gives off more than an unpleasant whiff of mysogyny. A suspicion he dismisses out of hand.

One of Raja’s key lieutenants operates under the pseudonym “Rocky Skelshaw” and is an ever-present wherever her hero, and leader, happens to be posting. Repeating and exaggerating the increasing ludicrous output from those quarters. Seemingly oblivious that Miah is presently the subject of at least two police investigations over his highly speculative, heavily politicised rants and that may well become her fate in acting as amplifier in his echo chamber. One of his other highly vocal sidekicks, Tracey Gibson, recently deleted her social media accounts on my advice.

“Rocky” was outed yesterday as another Diggle resident, Kerry Skelhorn (read in full here) after her own intemperate outbursts, over the past weekend, included berating a well known child sex abuse survivor from the Oldham area on a Facebook community forum and, of course, the standard harassing and defamatory posts that are the Recusant trademark.

She now faces civil action and a package is being prepared for the police. A statement has been requested from her employer, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to establish whether the core values of the charity are consistent with those of their Conservation Officer.

It is very surprising, from a journalist’s standpoint, that the unlawful activities of such as Raja Miah, Miss Skelhorn, and a significant number of others, with either personal or political axes to grind against some or all of such as local MPs, the council, the police, the Mayor, in maintaining this vile hate campaign, have not been the subject of more immediate and robust action. A matter I am taking up myself, in measured terms, with Detective Chief Inspector James Faulkner, a senior officer based at Oldham Police Station, who has been adjacent to the facts for some time. We start off from a healthy position, as the only previous interaction produced an impressive response from both him and his divisional colleagues over a safeguarding issue.

Greater Manchester Police press office has been contacted for comment.

Page last updated: Wednesday 28th October, 2020 at 1015 hours

Photo credits: Arriva North West

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 2015-2020. 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.

When the ‘cover-up’ becomes the story

Hi, Mabs. Ian Hopkins speaking.”

So began the search for a new member of the most troubled command team in British policing. Even before the post was advertised. In footballing parlance, Chief Superintendent Maboob “Mabs” Hussain from the neighbouring West Yorkshire force (WYP) had been “tapped up”.

Hopkins, the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) chief constable, ultimately, and he thought seamlessly, secured the transfer of Mabs from a rival team across the Pennines. Even though the tapping up did cause some discomfort within the GMP command team, emails disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The phone call was made on the same day that Hopkins and his deputy, Ian Pilling, claim they decided that another assistant chief constable was needed to bolster their dwindling team: 19th July, 2018. But no notes in day books were made, no meeting or briefing notes, no team discussion, no decision rationale, no disclosable data at all. Just a spur of the moment, informal discussion it seems.

It also appears that the police and crime commissioner was not consulted, either, as required by law.

But, those not so minor issues apart, all seemed fine and dandy; slick dresser Mabs had got a promotion, some might say well-deserved, and a pay rise of around £40,000, including benefits; Hopkins had been able to disguise the fact that no other senior police officer in the country wanted to work for him AND he had a black minority ethic (BAME) face in his leadership team, to underscore his commitment to the police service’s obsession with diversity. Smiles and handshakes all round.

Except that Hopkins had the dubious distinction of having, at that time,  TWO disgraced assistant chief constables on long-term absence from the force, with neither expected to return. The cost to the taxpayer was around £250,000 per annum. Which, in terms the man, or woman, on the crime-riddled, poverty-stricken streets of Manchester might understand, would pay for ten bobbies on the beat. Or, more than adequately feed fifteen families of five for a year.

The first of those, ACC Steve Heywood, is presently awaiting a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after an investigation by The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC, but perhaps better known as the IPCC). The latter said, in May 2018:

“Our investigation looked at the evidence given by ACC Steven Heywood at the [Anthony Grainger] inquiry, particularly in relation to how he recorded information in his police (sic) log book.

 
 

Heywood has been dogged by other major policing scandals since his full promotion to the command team in April, 2013. He had been in a temporary ACC role for eighteen months prior. He has been absent from the force for eighteen months on full pay. Again, a six figure salary plus benefits.

On 14th November, 2018, after almost a week of rumours swirling around social media, news was released to the press, by GMP, of Heywood’s retirement. Apart from his own failings, that led, at least in part, to the needless death of Anthony Grainger, Heywood has always sought to conceal his role in the handling of notorious villain, Dale Cregan, who eventually, and tragically, shot and killed two young Manchester police officers. The subsequent, and some say, contrived, sale of Heywood’s house also developed into a murky scandal centred around whether he was at risk from Cregan, at the time locked up in the Category AA wing (known as The Cage) of Strangeways jail. The artful financial wangling was followed by the inevitable, long-running, multi-layered GMP ‘cover-up’. The troubled ACC was also Head of Public Protection in GMP for at least some of the period covered by the Rochdale grooming scandal. The vexed question of ‘who knew what’ within the police force is presently being addressed via an inquiry run by the Greater Manchester Mayor.

The infamous ‘Boobgate’ scandal claimed the second of the miscreant ACC’s: Rebekah Sutcliffe, whom many believe owes her continued, if pointless, place in the police service to the astute advocacy of John Beggs QC. Who, somehow, managed to persuade a disciplinary panel, that included Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to conclude proceedings with a written warning, rather than dismissal. A remarkable achievement, in the light of the allegations against her and a previous chequered history with the force. Sutcliffe, who infamously told colleague, Superintendent Sarah Jackson, that she would be “judged on the size of her tits” is presently seconded to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, where she is overseeing a project to encourage exercise, healthy living and healthy eating (watch short video clip here) . A demeaning ‘non-job’ costing taxpayers £109,000, plus benefits, per annum. She was reprimanded in 2010 for trying to pull rank and gatecrash a Labour party conference hotel, to attend a drinks junket, when she had no accreditation to enter the secure site. There was also an IPCC ivestigation into her failure to declare a relevant relationship with chief superintendent, Paul Rumney, when chairing a disciplinary panel. Rumney, never far from controversy himself, was Head of GMP’s Professional Standards Board at the material time, thus creating a clear conflict of interest. That neither, oddly enough, appeared to notice at the time.

49 year old Sutcliffe’s secondment to Oldham council was due to end in September, 2018, but a spokesperson for the latter recently told Police Oracle: “There is no agreed end date for the secondment at this time. Rebekah is still the Strategic Director of Reform”. GMP refused to comment on if, or when, she would be returning to the force. It is believed she has five years of police service remaining before she becomes eligible for retirement. Her biography has been deleted from the GMP chief officer team webpage.

At a time when the police service cannot give away deputy and chief constable roles, another ACC, Debbie Ford, recently secured a rare neutral-rank transfer from GMP back to her former force, Northumbria Police (read here). Having told at least one former senior colleague, retired superintendent Pete Jackson, she was uncomfortable with being associated with scandal after scandal that routinely engulfs the force. As the former murder detective wryly observes: “Challenging the unethical, unprofessional conduct of her peers was an option she might have considered, rather than heading for the exit door”. There may be other personal, or professional, reasons why Ford left GMP, of course. But, if there are, the public is in the dark. Ford joins Sarah Jackson as a GMP departee, after the latter also sought a transfer from the troubled Manchester force to the less demanding rural acres of Cumbria.

Garry Shewan was another who walked away from an ACC role in the UK’s fourth largest force, doing a ‘moonlight flit’ as GMP’s £27 million iOPS technology upgrade, for which he had portfolio responsibility, crashed and burned. The budget for the project is believed to have roughly doubled and, incredibly, Shewan claims credit for a £60 million IT project on his LinkedIn profile.. “Honest Cop” Shewan, like Heywood and Sutcliffe, had also been dogged by scandal over the previous four years as both the author of this piece, and an increasing number of well respected police whistleblowers, rounded on him and exposed a number of troubling, alleged misdemeanours. Some of them very well evidenced. In one particular case, that resulted in the controversial, and many say unjust, dismissal of a junior officer, ex chief constable Sir Peter Fahy allowed Shewan to investigate complaints about himself. They had been made by the discipline lead of the local police federation, no less. In another case, Shewan wanted to manage a conduct complaint about him outside the statutory framework and through a restorative justice process in which he was the controlling influence. He had admitted giving a misleading statement about knowledge, or otherwise, of an investigation being carried out by Fahy into another chief constable, Lincolnshire’s Neil Rhodes. The issue being that Shewan had withheld crucial information that could have significantly informed that probe. The Operation Redbone outcome was significantly flawed as a result.

Hate crime champion, Shewan, was also not slow to complain about feeling ‘harassed’ when tackled about his conduct.

Yet another Manchester assistant chief constable to head for the exit door, as trouble rained down on him, was Terry Sweeney. His retirement triggered an angry response from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC, now IOPC).  He was under investigation by the IPCC for two separate allegations, after being served with a gross misconduct notice in relation to the disposal of body parts by GMP from victims of the notorious Harold Shipman. In addition, he was served with a criminal and gross misconduct notice in respect of his role in an allegedly poorly-handled investigation into a now-convicted child sex offender, Dominic Noonan. Sweeney was also involved in the alleged ‘cover-up’ of the unauthorised bugging of offices, occupied by senior leadership team members, by Superintendent Julian Snowball, who had purchased equipment for his illegal activities on the internet. Terry Sweeney was also formerly a Commander of GMP’s Rochdale Division and is yet another part, however small, of the ‘who knew what’ police mystery concerning child sex abuse in the town.

One of Sweeney’s sycophantic clique, during this troubled period, was Detective Chief Inspector (as he was then) John Lyons, latest holder of the poisoned chalice that is Head of Ethics and Standards at troubled Cleveland Police. Lyons is remembered well by former GMP peers for a discreditable, unpleasant, early morning drunken incident in Bolton town centre, in which subordinate officers were verbally abused. Sweeney is said to have smoothed the path so that his friend faced no meaningful sanction.

The IPCC Commissioner overseeing the Sweeney investigations, said at the time: “Greater Manchester Police has informed the IPCC that ACC Terry Sweeney is retiring on 31 October, 2014. The IPCC cannot prevent that happening, but we have been assured that ACC Sweeney will cooperate with our investigations after his departure.

“A police officer resigning or retiring when they are subject to investigation does not serve anyone’s purpose and can frustrate our investigations leaving important questions unanswered. Such a practice can only be damaging to public confidence in policing. We will continue pursuing all lines of enquiry before publishing our findings and evidence so that the public can decide for themselves.”

Sweeney faced no further action. Strangely, the IPCC report can no longer be located on their website.

Against this alarming, and continuous, backdrop, Chief Constable Hopkins has also been under heavy siege for the past twelve months, as a series of national newspaper front page splashes, in depth exposés, and a call for a public inquiry, has kept both him, and his scandal-rocked force in the headlines. For all the wrong reasons, it must be said. He was also lambasted over the Boobgate scandal, and some squarely put the blame on him for not nipping Becky Sutcliffe’s drunken antics in the bar, whilst stood with her at the boozy women’s policing function. Instead he delegated that unpleasant, hazardous task to a subordinate, whilst he sloped off to enjoy another ‘freebie’ at a nearby luxury hotel (read more here). Which might readily explain why no-one wanted to work for him as an assistant chief constable and end up with a reputation tarnished in the manner of Heywood, Shewan, Sutcliffe or Sweeney. Or have to backtrack to their home force in the manner of Debbie Ford.

An independent observer might also conclude that, given the present circumstances, and sensing there may be even worse to come, you would have to be desperate to walk into that firestorm.

Nevertheless, Hussain took up the role of Assistant Chief Constable at GMP on 1st October, 2018. He was the only candidate who applied, after the approach from Hopkins, and it is said, the only candidate interviewed; although no documented evidence of such an event has been disclosed to the author of this piece, after what have been quite exhaustive enquiries: Two freedom of information requests (one each to GMP and WYP) concerning the appointment; enquiries made of both police force press offices; fairly lengthy correspondence with GMP Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Ian Pilling and one way correspondence with WYP Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Whom, it must be said, has this unappealing, unethical, unprofessional, and repeating habit of burying her head in the sand at the first sign of trouble. Particularly, when it is one of her ‘favourites’ under scrutiny. Mabs was, most certainly, in that group.

Documents disclosed by WYP under FOIA reveal the usual inconsistencies. Collins claims the matter of Mabs’ ‘tapping-up’ on 19th July, 2018 by Hopkins and subsequent application to GMP, was first discussed amongst her own command team the day after he was appointed (4th September, 2018). The only record in her day book, she says, is on that same date and a copy has been disclosed.

Yet, Collins had assisted in Mabs’ application, in early August, to the extent that, in section 11 of the application form (a blank form can be viewed here) it was required to be completed by the applicant’s chief constable, she filled it in and sent it back to Hussain, via email, with the jolly message: ‘If it is not what you want, alter it to suit’. 

No note in her day book about that event. Or, if there is, it has not been disclosed. A retired WYP command team member has revealed that, under Dee Collins’ leadership, the priority is what to EXCLUDE from notes of their meetings, rather than maintain an auditable record.

Taken at its face, and by reference to the disclosures made, so far, by both forces, Hopkins did not contact Collins. Which, given the recent history of each of those two police forces covering up for the other, and the fact that they are neighbours, with a large shared border, is difficult to contemplate.

There is no documented record, either, of Mabs contacting his own chief constable, or vice versa, after the Hopkins phone call.

The fact it was public knowledge, broadcast by Collins, no less, that Mabs was in line for the next ACC role in his home force, where he had served his entire 22 year police career, simply adds to the intrigue as to why a popular, high achieving, Bradford council estate lad made good, would take such a risk with this move to GMP.

At the time of his appointment as ACC, this is what a gushing Mabs said on the GMP website: “I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity. I have great admiration for the work GMP has done for some time, knowing they are a similar size to WYP and respecting the way they have responded to particularly challenging times over the years. Their commitment to public service and the demands I can expect to face in my new role were all things which appealed to me to join the GMP family.”

So, let us look at this statement in more detail:

He was certainly correct about being ‘given’ the opportunity. Gift-wrapped, with a ribbon on top.

But then his fresh-from-the-strategic-command-course-sycophantic-management-speak sets the alarm bells ringing (Mabs had successfully negotiated the necessary College of Policing test six months earlier):

Firstly, he does not explain what it is he admires about GMP that places it above his former force. Both have a dreadful history of covering up industrial scale child sex abuse Rochdale, Oldham, Bradford (Mabs’ home city for all his life), Dewsbury, Keighley, Halifax, Huddersfield, Manchester Curry Mile, Mirfield. Similarly, their failures to tackle volume crime, particularly burglarly, are legion. Both have gun, and knife, crime that is out of control. Is all this ‘the [GMP] commitment to public service’ to which he refers? But, moving on, both have professional standards departments and counter-corruption units that are perennially inept, and, arguably, corrupt. Both have ACPO teams, past and present, mired in scandal. Both have chief constables that are, quite plainly, out of their depth. Both have the unenviable reputation for outrageous, high profile cover-ups. So what is it that makes GMP ‘admirable’, one has to wonder: The debacle in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing; the Operation Grantham stored body parts scandal; or a multi-million pound organised crime investigation that collapsed after allegations of police officer corruption? These three examples are drawn from a lengthy list that also includes Operations Poppy 1 and 2, and Operation Leopard, of which more will be heard in a separate articles.

Secondly, no-one who knows even a little about policing, or reads the national newspapers, or watches police documentaries on TV, or listens to radio programmes such as File on 4, could conclude anything other than, in its present form, run by Hopkins, Greater Manchester Police is a scandal-hit shambles. Perhaps Mabs, an alert thief-taker, missed all that?

Thirdly, he describes Greater Manchester Police as ‘a family’. The implication is happiness, cohesion and belonging. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a rush for the exit door into careers such as train, or tram, driver;  officers count the hours and days to retirement; morale in the force is at rock bottom says the GMP Police Federation; faith in the leadership team is correspondingly low, and, so stressed are the frontline officers with the working environment, record numbers are calling in sick. Add to that the internal strife caused by over-promotion of on-message sycophants, who have never seen an angry man; obsessive internal witch-hunts conducted against officers prepared to call out wrongdoing, and then draw your own conclusions as to whether this den of skulduggery, and two-faced-gittery, is a family of which anyone sensible would really want to newly marry into. Especially, if it means uprooting your own family from an area in which you’ve lived all your life, and leaving an organisation in which you started your career, progressed at a pleasing rate, and have always been well regarded.

For his part, and at the same time, Chief Constable Hopkins said of his new recruit: “I’m delighted to welcome Mabs to the GMP family. He is an extremely experienced officer and he will help us to continue to drive the force forward”. Over a cliff, presumably? As for police ‘family’, Hopkins is on his fourth, having previously worked in three of the smaller county forces before making the quantum leap to Manchester in 2008.  Becoming chief constable of GMP, by default, in 2015, as no-one else applied for that job, either.

As one might expect, the Manchester Evening News (MEN), in what police whistleblowers say is their adopted role as the public relations arm of GMP, ran a ‘Welcome to Mabs’ puff piece, as Hussain gave his first exclusive ‘interview’, just one day after joining the force (read full MEN article here).

Despite controversy over the appointment, broadcast widely on social media, MEN avoided asking any difficult questions. It all had the look, and feel, of a pre-planned ‘corporate comms’ operation, with softball questions, and answers, agreed in advance, to avoid any embarassing issues surfacing, inadvertently.

There was, however, one interesting passage: Mabs was, presumably, well prepared when asked this question by award-winning MEN reporter, Neal Keeling:

– Is it true you and your family get stopped routinely when you fly abroad?

“Yes. I do get stopped regularly, in particular flying to the States – my brother lives in America – and I do visit him regularly. I have been taken off a flight, because they forgot to check me getting onto a flight, which was rather embarrassing. It does frustrate me. I can understand the reason for checking people who fit a certain age group, ethnicity, and profile. But it does annoy me that it is happening so often.

“As a result I did write to Homeland Security. The Director General replied saying they couldn’t confirm or deny if I was on any international list. I have what they call a redress number, which I can use when I fly, which they say should hopefully limit the level of inconvenience caused. You have to go with the flow.

“It is frustrating. But people have a job to do. Flying out of America I still get stopped. I usually get told my name has been flagged up, and to expect some delay. I don’t mind security checks, it shows we are taking terrorism seriously.”

Even more interestingly, Mabs was not asked these questions by “Killer”, as Keeling is known to friends and colleagues:

– What, or who, persusaded you to apply to join GMP?

– Why uproot your family and leave a force where you have served all your career?

– Was the competition for the job, and the interview, tough?

– Are you concerned about the welter of bad publicity that has engulfed GMP recently, particularly in The Times and The Sunday Times, and on BBC television and radio?

– What do you think of two serving ACC colleagues being removed from the force? One of whom may be facing criminal proceedings and the other who brought national shame and ridicule on GMP and the city of Manchester.

– Are you concerned about another ACC retiring in what was, effectively, a moonlight flit after grotesquely failing on a major infrastructure project?-

– Has this poisoned chalice been handed to you?

– Have you questioned why and how the ACC vacancy arose?

– Have you spoken to ACC Debbie Ford about why she left?

– Joining from another force that has history of ‘problem’ senior officers (Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore being very high profile examples), has this better equipped you to deal with a low calibre command team such as GMP?

– Will you robustly challenge inappropriate conduct of senior colleagues. Or look the other way, or walk away, as is the tradition in GMP?

– Were you asked in interview about the persistent allegations, circulating on social media, made by WYP whistleblowers against you?

– Have you been asked by either Mr Hopkins, or Mr Pilling, about them since you joined?

– Is there any truth in those allegations? Which include the proposition of failing counter terrorist unit vetting for a number of years.

– Were the whistleblower allegations robustly, and thoroughly, investigated by WYP, before you left, so that the air could be cleared and you could deal with any residual issues. If, indeed, there are any at all, on your application form and vetting declaration?

Whilst the MEN was giving Mabs the VIP treatment, Questions were being asked, by two investigative journalists, of the police press offices in Manchester and West Yorkshire about the allegations against Mabs. One of which, it is said, has been the subject of a complaint made by a serving WYP superintendent (also served as a detective chief inspector in professional standards for several years) and close working colleague.

Essentially, (i) have they been investigated – and (ii) what was the outcome?

Straighforward enough, and not at all unreasonable to expect honest answers from two of the country’s law enforcement agencies. But, no, all questions have been glibly deflected by both press offices, to both journalists, in a manner that seemed calculated to cause further exasperation.

Both those journalists, the author of this piece and the BBC’s Neil Morrow, readily accept that, if the wall of silence is maintained by both police forces, it is almost impossible to get to the truth of the issue of whether an investigation took place, or not. But, it can be said, with some certainty, that had one taken place, and cleared Mabs, then neither force would have been slow to trumpet that fact; discrediting the whistleblowers and those adopting their cause.

There has been email correspondence between Ian Pilling and Neil Wilby that appears to confirm that no checks have been made by GMP over the vetting issue and they had not asked, as of 14th September, 2018 any questions of WYP, at all, concerning the allegations against Mabs. The announcement of his appointment as the new GMP ACC had been made ten days earlier. The following day, 5th September, 2018, Pilling was passed, in strict confidence, correspondence between Neil Wilby, the WYP press office and Dee Collins dating back to January/February, 2018. The serving superintendent is copied into that correspondence. Which is shortly after the latest of the alleged incidents concerning Mabs. DCC Pilling cannot claim not to know the identity of that officer.

The official GMP line, says Pilling, is that if there has been any allegations concerning misconduct, during his service with WYP, then they were matters for the Appropriate Authority of that force, Chief Constable Collins, to deal with, not himself or Ian Hopkins. He was confident such an investigation would have been undertaken, but was not going to ask the question – and still hasn’t, on the evidence available. On 14th September, 2018, DCC Pilling says that he forwarded the concerns over the allegations to the West Yorkshire chief constable.

Following freedom of information request to both GMP and WYP, it appears that Ian Pilling did NOT contact Dee Collins, by email or letter, at least, to make enquiries as to whether that investigation into Mabs did, in fact take place. He didn’t contact DCC John Robins or Head of Professional Standards, Osman Khan, either. Neither did Ian Hopkins, nor his own Head of Professional Standards, Annette Anderson, contact any of the WYP officers named here.

It was also established, from the disclosure arising from those same requests, that there appears to have been no contact between any of the same three GMP senior officers and either the College of Policing or the National Police Chiefs Council, concerning Mabs’ appointment or any vetting concerns. The College’s senior selection team were made aware in January, 2018 of the whistleblower concerns, but no email correspondence between the College of Policing and either WYP, or GMP, has been disclosed upon request.

Dee Collins begins a three month secondment to the College of Policing in January, 2019.

A separate information request to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority seeking disclosure of correspondence between the de facto police and crime commissioner, Deputy Mayor of Manchester, Beverley Hughes, and her chief constable has, so far, been stonewalled.

By way of section 40 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011, the chief constable must consult the Police and Crime Commissioner (the Deputy Mayor in the case of GMCA) before appointing a person as an assistant chief constable of the force.

The response to the information request provided by the PCC is highly questionable. She claims that in respect of the appointment of deputy and assistant chief  constables, her oversight responsibility is confined to private chats between herself and the chief constable. No notes, or minutes, taken and no email traffic between the two. Indeed, no retrievable data is held says Baroness Hughes.

Material disclosed by GMP contradicts that position. Internal email correspondence between Ian Hopkins and Ian Pilling say she was sent a copy of Mabs’ application form, plus background papers, on 29th August, 2018. Put another way, the Deputy Mayor of Manchester has lied to journalist, Neil Wilby.

The stated position of the Deputy Mayor, according to her written response to the information request, has been robustly challenged. But no response had been provided by her within the required four week period under FOIA and the Information Commissioner’s guidance.

A complaint has been lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office concerning the handling of the request, and a further complaint is being submitted to the appropriate authority alleging honesty and integrity breaches by Beverley Hughes. In this case, the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel.

Baroness Hughes, another living, breathing example of the abuse of the ‘honours’ system does, of course, have ‘previous’ for lying. Having resigned as a Labour government minister, in 2004, for doing just that – and in very similar circumstances to those prevailing here: Denying she’d received a memorandum when it was readily proved that she had not only received the document, but acted on it.

Whether, or not, it is possible to get to the truth of the WYP whistleblower allegations against Mabs Hussain is a moot point, without an unequivocal statement from either Ian Hopkins, Dee Collins, or Mabs himself. But, as with so many policing issues over the years, it is now the ‘cover-up’ that becomes the story.

In this particular case, without the ever-lengthening mystery, and the lies that inevitably follow, surrounding this matter, there simply is no story. It could have been put to bed by a two paragraph statement from WYP in February or March, 2018.

This cover-up may yet claim some very high profile scalps, even if the new GMP assistant chief constable emerges untarnished and free to get on with his new job.

The press offices of GMP, WYP and the Deputy Mayor’s Office have all declined to comment. Indeed, the latter two have not even acknowledged the request.

The enquiry to the GMP press office ends thus: “For the avoidance of doubt, and this has been made clear, previously, to DCC Pilling and WYP chief constable Collins, I [Neil Wilby] have no personal, or professional, issues with ACC Hussain. Other than the whistleblower allegations, he is known inside and outside of WYP to be a popular, professional, high achieving police officer. I am more than content for those views to be shared with Mabs.”

Statements had been specifically requested from Mabs Hussain, and Dee Collins, that directly address the issue of whether the police whistleblower allegations have been appropriately recorded, referred and subsequently investigated.

From the ensuing silence, inference can be drawn as to whether the answer is in the affirmative, or otherwise. Not one journalist or police officer, serving, ex-, or retired, spoken to believes it has.

The lay reader is invited to draw their own conclusion as to where that leaves the GMP chief constable and his latest command team recruit.

There is no ACC Maboob Hussain biography on the GMP chief officer team webpage, which was last updated on 29th October, 2018. A month after mabs joined the force (read here).

Page last updated on Saturday 24th November, 2018 at 1725hrs

Picture credit: Greater Manchester Police

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