Sussex Police has robustly defended the action it has taken in an on-going incident in the Adur District. The police describe East Worthing & Shoreham MP Tim Loughton’s criticism in Parliament today (October 9th) of the force and a number of individual officers as extraordinary.
Assistant Chief Constable Robin Merrett said: “We have attempted to mediate between all of the parties involved in this incident for some time, but some have declined to engage in this process and our attempts to do so have not been successful.
“We did not wish to criminalise anyone, but it became apparent that the issue was not going to be resolved among those concerned and that some form of action was necessary in order to prevent it escalating further. After much consideration and independent scrutiny, the decision was taken to bring matters to a conclusion by issuing PINs (Police Information Notices) to all of the parties involved. However, it appears that Mr Loughton does not consider the matter closed.
“In his speech Mr Loughton focused in particular on the supply of the Hansard record to suggest that Sussex Police has interfered with the Parliamentary process. The person who received the Hansard report believed it to be a continuation of harassment against him and subsequently reported it to us.
“We would never seek to interfere with Parliamentary processes or privilege, but I strongly support actions taken by the force, which have been subject to independent legal scrutiny. We will of course await the views of the Committee of Privileges before commenting further.”
The matter relates to an investigation over a number of months into a series of allegations and counter allegations between a Shoreham resident and four elected public representatives, where all parties have in turn been considered as victims and suspects.
They include allegations of common assault by abuse in the street, and harassment online, by phone calls and in a letter. Harassment is any behaviour, on at least two occasions, which causes alarm or distress to someone else.
As a result of the investigation, no criminal charges have been sought as no individual’s behaviour has reached the threshold to so. However, PINs – also known as Early Conduct Harassment Notices – have been served on all five parties.
These notices explain that while current behaviour is not yet believed to be criminal, it has been reported by the other party as causing them distress and, were it to continue, it would lead to a re-opening of the investigation and consideration of arrest or prosecution.