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Legal fight still preventing report release after Planning probe

Legal fight still preventing report release after Planning probe

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Legal fight still preventing report release after Planning probe

Wednesday 10 January 2024


A report detailing actions taken by Planning in the wake of a £48,000 investigation into alleged corruption is still unable to be released after two years due to an “active” piece of litigation, Express has learned.

After being recruited in 2018 to independently investigate allegations dating back more than a decade, the Norfolk Constabulary concluded in December 2021 that there was “insufficient evidence” for a criminal prosecution.

However, the probe found that evidence gathered suggested a “dysfunctional” system which was "not fit for purpose".

In January 2022, then-Environment Minister John Young said he wouldn’t be able to publish the report on what specific actions had been taken in the department to prevent such situations arising again until the conclusion of a civil claim, which had been put on hold until the end of the investigation.

John-Young.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Young said that it was his "intention to publish the report" at the beginning of 2022.

At the time, Deputy Young said: “There is an active piece of live litigation, which means I am restricted in what I say about the matter but it is my intention to publish the report."

However, the Law Officer's Department confirmed this week that the same piece of litigation – which resumed in January 2022 following the completion of the planning probe – is still active.

This means that the report has still not been published over two years later.  

The report was set to outline what improvements had been made to Planning as a result of a £48,000 investigation, which centred on allegations from more than a dozen people relating to the conduct of four current and former employees of the Planning Department.

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Smith, who led the “lengthy, detailed and complex” probe, said many individuals had been interviewed and “nigh on 1,000 documents” had been examined in the process.

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Smith

Pictured: Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Smith presented the outcome of the investigation at a press conference in December 2021.

Whilst he would not reveal the exact allegations, sources told Express that those at the centre were perjury during a court hearing and misconduct in public office.

The former offence requires that an individual knowingly made a false statement during legal proceedings and that the statement was “material to the proceedings”.

However, complainants were told at a meeting in December 2021 that the statements they were concerned about weren’t found to have impacted the outcome of the relevant case.

While it was also decided that there was insufficient evidence of misconduct in public office, Express understands that officers did uncover:

  • examples of poor oversight, and a lack of proper training;
  • a lack of clear guidance as to how regulations should be applied;
  • and that officers were working without an approved or published enforcement procedure.

Detective Sergeant Duncan Woodhams told complainants at the meeting that there was evidence to suggest the department was “dysfunctional” and likely “not fit for purpose.”

More recently, a separate review of Planning's systems, processes, staffing and interactions with stakeholders was undertaken by an independent inspector amid frustrations over delays and red tape.

This week, Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf gave an update, stating that many recommendations arising from the critical review had been followed, but that there was still more work to do, including creating a 'concordat' on sustainable practices with industry representatives.

READ MORE...

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Planning corruption investigation exposes “dysfunctional” system

UK probe into Planning 'corruption' has cost £17k...so far

Planning 'corruption' investigation cost hits £41k

Planning 'misconduct' investigation cost over £10k in overtime

Date set for alleged Planning misconduct report

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