Derbyshire police investigating after traveller site meeting documents 'stolen' from council leader's home

Police are investigating an allegation that documents relating to a Derbyshire traveller site decision were ‘stolen’ from a council leader’s home.

Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 10:08 am

The documents in question were annotated papers from a September meeting of Derbyshire Dales District Council (DDDC) in which a controversial decision over a new traveller site in Tansley was made.

They are said to have been stolen from council leader Coun Garry Purdy’s house later that month.

The papers ended up in the hands of Coun Vicki Raynes, Tansley Parish Council chairman, who, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), claims she received them from an unknown source in the post.

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Coun Gary Purdy, Derbyshire Dales District Council leader, said the incident would not stop him continuing in his role

Coun Raynes, who is opposed to the lack of consultation of the Tansley traveller site, claims the papers showed that the district Conservative group had made their decision on the proposed site ahead of the September 2 meeting.

She submitted a complaint on this issue, including photocopies from the allegedly stolen papers, seen by the LDRS, to the district council.

During a council meeting last week Coun Purdy said he had reported the incident to the police on Wednesday, November 11.

Coun Purdy said politics in the authority had reached a ‘new low’ and if councillors did not work together in the wake of the alleged incident, the council could ‘implode’.

Police visited Coun Raynes’ house on November 15 and she accompanied officers to the Matlock police station where she was questioned on the issue and handed over the papers.

A Derbyshire police spokesperson said: “On Wednesday 11 November the force received a report of theft from a property in Derby Road in Cromford.

"Enquiries are ongoing into the alleged offence and there have been no arrests.”

During a DDDC full council meeting on November 26, Coun Purdy called the incident a ‘private matter’ and not one for the council itself to be involved in.

He directly referenced Coun Raynes’ complaint and her possession of the allegedly stolen papers.

Coun Purdy said: “I’ve always maintained an honest and open approach to my role as a district councillor since 2007 when I was first elected, and especially as a leader of this council since May of last year.

“And I have endeavoured as leader to inculcate a united approach with all members involved in the business this council undertakes.

“This episode comes at a time of real crisis in my home, with my wife trying to recover from a heart attack and the dreadful effects of Covid-19, caught while in hospital, has caused immense stress and a test of my faith in carrying out my public duties for DDDC.

“Having given the matter careful thought and with the help of my wife, family and certain colleagues, I’ve decided to refuse to let such behaviour stop me in my endeavours to do the best for my ward, this authority and the people of the Derbyshire Dales.

“I’ve also decided to carry on despite this criminal act at my property because I feel strongly that as councillors we should all be allowed to carry on with our duties in a free and unfettered manner as possible, for the sake of good governance in DDDC and for the people who elected us.

“Politics has reached a new low in this authority but the perpetrators must not be allowed to win.

“I appeal, therefore, especially to the person or persons responsible for this theft and its wider issue, to examine their actions and conscience and ask what benefit it has brought to anyone except to cause upset to myself and my wife.

“We either work together, as a team, or in my opinion, this authority will implode.”

The LDRS approached Coun Raynes for comment in response to CounPurdy’s public statement.

She claimed that Derbyshire police told her in a further interview on November 24 that the allegedly stolen papers had been removed from Coun Purdy’s recycling bin between September 3 and 8.

Coun Raynes said: “Around October 23, I received a brown envelope via Royal Mail.

"The envelope bore a Nottingham post mark but there was no indication of who had sent it.

“Opening the envelope, I was surprised to find documents which appeared to be relating to a meeting of DDDC’s Conservative group ahead of the council’s extraordinary meeting of September 2 at which councillors voted on their preferred option for a traveller site.

“The papers included an agenda for the September 2 meeting, annotated in a distinctive handwriting, and other printed and handwritten notes and documents related to the same group meeting.

“It was not possible to deduce with any certainty to whom the papers belonged.

"One note read ‘Tansley Parish Council kicking up a storm’; another mentioned me –‘Leak from group to Vicki’.

“When I examined the papers further, it became clear that they might be interpreted as evidence that predetermination had taken place with regard to the vote taken at the September 2 meeting at which Knabhall Lane in Tansley was chosen as the preferred site.

“Given the perceived sensitivity of the papers, and in the public interest, I then photocopied all the documents and delivered them to the parish council solicitor for his advice.

“The solicitor advised me to forward the photocopies to DDDC’s monitoring officer – someone who should be able to take an unbiased view on the situation, investigate the authenticity and ownership of the papers, and give a view on whether predetermination had taken place.

“To ensure transparency, the papers were also forwarded to all members of Tansley Parish Council and to all district councillors.

“However, within days of sending the documents to DDDC, I was visited by the police at my home.

“I was informed the visit was part of an investigation related to the removal of private papers from a venue in Cromford.

“The police wanted to know if I knew who had sent the papers, but I was unable to help them as I had no idea.

“The police took the papers and said no further help from me was required.

“I note that in a statement made by Coun Purdy about the alleged theft at a council meeting on November 26 he said the issue was ‘a private matter that does not concern the council’.

"This is a view with which I do not concur.”