Councillor Paul Hodgkinson, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the Cotswolds, has arranged an urgent meeting with Gloucestershire Police Commissioner Martin Surl over criticism of the force in the Operation Juggler report.
The two-year review by an outside team from The City of London Police into allegations of fraud and corruption in the Cotswold Water Park concludes: “It is clear that the initial complaint to Gloucestershire Police was not handled as well as it could have been.”
The report goes on to detail how officers failed to take any formal witness statements when local resident Esmond Jenkins, now a Lib Dem councillor, first reported his suspicions about fraud at Cotswold Water Park Society in January 2010. It was not until a month later that the police launched a “covert” investigation into CWPS Chief Executive Dennis Grant and another employee who has since died.
Grant was eventually challenged by his assistant Tasha Flaherty who went on to discover a secret bank account in Banbury which he had used to launder £660,000 stolen from the Society. But, on 21 April 2010 her repeated attempts to report the crime were rebuffed by the police.
The COLP report states: “On 21st April 2010 CWPS managers made 4 attempts to report the matter to police. The first attempt was via telephone to Thames Valley Police at Banbury who directed them to report in person to Cirencester where the Station Officer refused to take the report due to insufficient evidence.
“The third attempt was again via telephone to the Gloucestershire Police switchboard which again directed them back to Cirencester where they returned to speak to the same Station Officer who again refused to take the report.”
Cllr Hodgkinson (Churn Valley), leader of the Lib Dem group on Cotswold District Council, said: “The full scale of the fiasco when Grant’s crimes were first reported have finally been laid bare in this report and it is deeply worrying.
“I will be seeing Martin Surl to discuss what can be done to reassure public minded citizens that they will be listened to when they take their suspicions to the police.
“Without the tenacity of Cllr Jenkins and Tasha Flaherty, who both did their own investigations after being turned away by the police, there is a strong probability that Grant would never have been brought to justice.”
The COLP report recommends that the force reviews guidance given to officers faced with complex frauds and other serious crimes and “update and educate their staff where necessary.”
Cllr Hodgkinson said: “I hope to discuss with the Police and Crime Commissioner the steps taken so far and what more can be done to restore public confidence, especially among communities in the Water Park where it has been seriously eroded in recent years.”