Police made a ‘serious mistake’

SUSSEX Police ‘clearly made a serious mistake’ in sending an harassment warning notice to East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton following a dispute with a constituent, a parliamentary committee ruled.

The MP took his case to the Committee of Privileges after he sent a copy of parliamentary proceedings to a troublesome constituent, notifying him he would no longer act as his MP.

Following its sending, Sussex Police issued him, and others, a Police Information Notice (PIN), stating he could be liable for prosecution if he continued to ‘harass’ the constituent.

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In its report, the committee said it was ‘clearly a contempt’.

It said: “A threat of legal action arising from the content of a speech made in the House and published by Order of the House is clearly a contempt. The ability of those who speak in Parliament to speak freely is a fundamental part of our democracy.

“The prospect that there may be legal proceedings in consequence of the making of or simple publication of, such a speech is likely to have a chilling effect on MPs and on others who take part in official proceedings.”

In response, Sussex Police said it would give the report ‘careful and serious consideration’.

A spokesman said: “We dealt with this as an operational matter, as we would any other, and in issuing Police Information Notices to all parties, our aim has always been to reach a resolution, treating everyone fairly and in accordance with the law.”

PINs did not constitute any kind, or threat of formal legal action, he added.