The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have today announced their decision not to prosecute Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, after concerns were raised following a TopOfTheCops investigation of expenses claims submitted to various authorities between 2009 and 2012.
The text of the CPS statement that has been passed to me is reproduced at the foot of this post, and I thought I should make some brief comments for the benefit of all those who are asking.
In criminal trials in the UK judges ask juries to only convict when they are sure that someone is guilty. Sometimes we use the phrase “beyond reasonable doubt” to describe the level of proof that is required to establish a criminal conviction. Having worked in policing and in investigating miscarriages of justice I am glad that this is the case, even though it sets a higher standard for evidence to meet in a criminal court than in a civil court or in our everyday decisions.
The CPS note that 37 claims made by Mr Grunshaw could potentially have been proved to be incorrect. This is ample justification of the concerns raised by myself and the Sunday Times about these claims. It does not inspire confidence in a Police and Crime Commissioner who has responsibility for over a billion pounds of public expenditure in his term of office.
The CPS refer to 452 claims in total. This could create the mistaken impression that there were questions about less than 10% of the total claims. In fact, many of these other claims involve an amount for subsistence, which is basically a claim for a meal, and submission of those claims require that a receipt be obtained and retained by the claimant where possible. I have asked the authorities, but still have not seen one receipt backing any of those subsistence claims, and it is not yet clear whether the CPS or Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have seen the receipts either. This is an issue because many of the claims were to the maximum amount possible to be claimed, whereas the policies of the authorities only allow actual expenditure to be claimed when it is less than that maximum. The claims therefore suggest that expense at or above the maximum was incurred on a regular basis, and Mr Grunshaw should have the receipts to prove this. I ask “Show us the receipts, Clive“. It is imperative that the people of Lancashire should have confidence in the integrity of their Police and Crime Commissioner, and I call on Mr Grunshaw to publish those receipts so that this can happen. This is something the Commissioner has repeatedly failed to do.
The CPS make mention of Mr Grunshaw not claiming on 28 occasions where he was entitled, and that this suggests no financial gain was sought, but no details for the nature of these claims has been published in order to establish that there was an entitlement.
It is difficult to comment further as none of us yet have the benefit of the report of the IPCC investigation, hence the interim nature of my comments. However, this decision should now clear the way for the IPCC report to be published.
The beauty of the system of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, and open publication of such investigations is that we all should then be able to make our own decision about what has happened in this case, including the members of the Labour Party in Lancashire when they come to select their candidate next time, and the people of Lancashire when they consider who is worthy of their support at the next PCC elections.
“A file was submitted in October 2013, and all evidence received in mid-November 2013, in order for the CPS to consider if potential charges of fraud by false misrepresentation should be brought against Mr Clive Grunshaw. To prosecute this offence dishonesty must be proved.
“The allegations concern a number of expenses claims made over a three year period between January 2009 and December 2012, during which time Mr Grunshaw was a member of both Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police Authority. These expenses generally related to travel and subsistence claims for attendance at meetings for both authorities.
“The evidence has now been considered in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove that any claim had been submitted dishonestly, and therefore there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for any relevant criminal offence.
“During the three year period Mr Grunshaw made 37 claims, out of 452 in total, which the evidence indicates, according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors, could potentially have been proved to be incorrect. Mr Grunshaw was making claims for expenses incurred through work for three organisations, and the evidence suggests errors rather than deliberacy on his part. In addition it appears that Mr Grunshaw did not submit around 28 claims to which he was entitled and this suggests that no financial gain was sought. In the light of these factors, our assessment is that there is insufficient evidence to show that any of these claims was submitted dishonestly.
“In all the circumstances of this case, therefore, we have concluded that no further action should be taken.”