IV PRESSURE AND HARASSMENT
820. During this inquiry several disturbing incidents
have been reported to me as cases of alleged harassment.
Mrs Vaz Senior
821. Mr Vaz told me that his mother, Mrs Vaz
senior, had received a harassing telephone call from one of the
complainants, Miss Eggington, who Mrs Vaz senior believed to have
been acting on my behalf. Miss Eggington has vehemently denied
822. Mr Vaz reported this incident to the police,
who have tried to obtain Mrs Vaz senior's account of the call.
Mr Vaz has maintained that his mother's illness has made it impossible
for her to provide the police with a statement.
823. On 7 December 2001, after I had sent my
draft memorandum to Mr Vaz, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Smith
informed me by telephone that, following the police enquiries,
he was of the view that no telephone call had been made to Mrs
Vaz senior by Miss Eggington or Mrs Gresty on 4 October 2001.
At my request Detective Chief Inspector Paul Smith provided me
with a report on his enquiries dated 12 December 2001 (Annex IV22).
The report states that although Mr Vaz had "declined to
facilitate [police] contact with his mother"...
"The Leicestershire Constabulary are now in receipt of
information to suggest that no calls were received by Mrs Vaz's
home telephone on the 4th October, 2001, that could
be attributable to either Miss Eggington or Mrs Gresty ".
824. Mr Vaz has complained to me about my request
that the police provide me with a copy of their report on the
incident. Mr Vaz said that he would report me to the Speaker for
making this request. He said I was interfering in a criminal prosecution
by doing so, though he later accepted that there was no such prosecution
in progress. Leicestershire Police have interviewed Miss Eggington
and Mrs Gresty about this matter. (Mr Vaz had also complained
to the Leicestershire Police that Mrs Gresty might have been the
alleged caller, though he has not said this to me.)
825. The Leicestershire Constabulary told me
that they were surprised to learn from me that Miss Eggington
was a complainant in a case under investigation by me involving
Mr Vaz, as Mr Vaz had not told them this. The police have also
informed me that Mr Vaz had reported to them that Miss Eggington
had made several calls to his mother. Mr Vaz has at no
stage mentioned to me any other alleged harassing calls by Miss
Eggington to Mrs Vaz senior.
826. In addition, I have now been informed by
Leicestershire Constabulary that Miss Eggington did not
make the telephone call to Mrs Vaz senior as alleged by Mr Vaz.
The making of such an accusation would always be a very serious
matter. To make an allegation that a complainant had made such
a call when this was untrue, and when Mr Vaz had no evidence to
suggest that it might be true, is a gross attack on the integrity
and reputation of a member of the public assisting in a Parliamentary
inquiry. Mr Vaz requested that I pursue his allegation and I did
so. I have therefore wasted my time in this process and as a consequence
have brought distress to Miss Eggington and wasted her time. It
appears that Mr Vaz may have also wasted police time, although
that is a matter for the appropriate authorities.
Mr and Mrs Gresty
827. Mr and Mrs Gresty complained to me about
the alleged harassment of Mrs Gresty. She said she felt harassed
when she received a letter from lawyers employed by Ms Fernandes
which said that Ms Fernandes was considering taking legal action
against Mrs Gresty. Mrs Gresty was so distressed by this letter
that on 8 November 2001 she told me that she felt she could not
continue as a witness to this inquiry. It is to Mrs Gresty's credit
that, despite feeling harassed by this letter, she decided to
continue as witness.
828. The letter, which was sent on behalf of
Ms Fernandes, was not, in its tone or wording, an overtly harassing
letter but there is no doubt that Mrs Gresty felt intimidated
by it. I cannot say whether this letter was sent with any intention
of harassing Mrs Gresty, but it was ill-timed and inappropriate
during an inquiry of this kind.
829. As a practising solicitor Ms Fernandes was
doubtless aware of the effect such a letter might have on a witness
to an inquiry. As she knew Mrs Gresty well, and was aware that
she had recently suffered a period of illness one might have hoped
Ms Fernandes would not have felt it necessary to approach Mrs
Gresty in this way. This action by Ms Fernandes was most regrettable.
830. Miss Eggington also wrote to me to complain
about a letter she had received from Ms Fernandes's solicitors.
In her statement she said she felt threatened by the tone of this
letter and that she said that she sensed that Ms Fernandes was
"trying to intimidate and bully" her.
831. After I had drafted the main sections of
this memorandum, Miss Eggington wrote to me again on 6 December
2001 (Annex IV23), to inform me of a further exchange of correspondence
with Ms Fernandes's solicitors concerning possible legal proceedings
by Ms Fernandes, over an alleged breach of confidence by Miss
Eggington, which Miss Eggington has denied. I regard such letters
to a complainant in a Parliamentary inquiry as inappropriate.