Guest blog from a Kensal Rise Library campaigner in a personal capacity
Many people are asking when the police investigation in to the fake email support for Andrew Gillck’s change-of-use planning application for Kensal Rise Library be completed. It is, after all, three months since the council was first handed evidence of online fraud - an attempt to inflate local backing for Mr Gillick’s proposals. Brent later claimed that it had passed this material to the police.
Not exactly, alas. The council had simply forwarded its findings to the civilian-run national fraud and internet-crime reporting centre, Action Fraud. True, this is the first step in reporting electronic fraud and one which Brent was obliged to follow. Why the council didn’t tell residents that Action Fraud is a holding-centre only, not itself an investigatory body, and that it would take time before the actual police inquiry got underway is another matter.
So it transpires that it’s only in the last couple of weeks that Brent’s findings have actually reached the City of London Police’s National Fraud and Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), where they will be reviewed. How long it’ll take the NFIB to decide if there’s a criminal case to answer is unknown, likewise whether Brent is proactively monitoring developments or simply waiting on events.
A report last month by Mark Smulian in the Local Government Chronicle quotes a Brent Council spokesman: ‘It is clear that a number of the emails came from bogus email addresses but, unfortunately, it is not so clear that this necessarily constitutes a criminal offence’ LINK
As an astute observer has commented, however: ‘It should be remembered that in addition to the fake email debacle, real fraud did occur - someone generated letters & emails of support using real addresses without their owners’ permission. It is these cases that I would imagine are the most criminally damaging’. The case of Kensal Rise businesswoman Kirsty Slattery is but one example reported in the Brent and Kilburn Times LINK
What is clear is that Mr Gillick is currently revising his plans for the historic Mark Twain/Andrew Carnegie library - his original planning application was unanimously rejected by Brent’s planning committee in September. Sensitive to accusations of previously having failed to consult them and so hoping to win over local residents to his latest scheme, the developer recently held a public ‘exhibition’ of his new proposals in a Kensal Rise pub.
To date, though, it seems he hasn’t yet submitted a new planning application to the council, nor should any be considered by the planning department until the outcome of the NFIB’s investigation is known. Unfortunately, the council’s line is to repeat, mantra-like, that it ‘has a responsibility and obligation to consider any valid planning application that is put forward from any individual(s). It must consider each on its merits in accordance with its statutory obligations’ (Christine Gilbert, acting chief executive).
Against the ongoing police inquiry and the possibility of prosecution for planning fraud, it would be absurd for Brent to pursue business as usual with respect to any further application from Mr Gillick for any Brent development - an apparent fake email in support of the Barham Library Complex appears directly linked to the Platinum Revolver/Kensal Properties Ltd developer - or anyone else for Kensal Rise Library. Meantime, it’s good to hear that the council has strengthened its ‘procedures...to require those who wish to make comments on–line to register and provide us with their contact details’, particularly as, according to a computer expert, ‘It’s [wan’t] very clever of Brent to collect comments via a system that [was] this easy to spoof’.