Thursday, 11 February 2010

Nicola Sturgeon's Letter to the Court - Comment from DougtheDug




This may be helpful to some of you. DougtheDug (my grateful thanks) placed it in his comment and it includes a copy of Nicola Stugeon's letter to the court regarding Mr Rauf, plus the relevant chapter from the MSPs' Code of Conduct:

Here's the text of the letter Nicola Sturgeon sent to the Judge:

Mr Abdul Rauf

I refer to my above named constituent and the case brought against him for benefit fraud.

I have been aware of Mr Rauf's case since July 2008 when he sought assistance from me after a search warrant was executed at his home by the Department of Work and Pensions and officers from Strathclyde Police. It was clear at the time that he recognised the serious nature of the the matter he was facing and that it would be necessary to pay back the money he had obtained unlawfully.

For a number of years Mr Rauf has suffered from poor health mainly associated with his heart; he has a family, including young children aged under ten; and he is heavily involved in his community. All these aspects of his life have been significantly impacted upon by the mistake he has made.

Mr Rauf has accepted his wrongdoing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community. He has advised me that he has already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance owed to the Department of Work and Pensions and has said, since he first sought my advice, that he will sell his interest in his property in Edinburgh to settle the remaining balance.

He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and further affect this will have on Mr Rauf's health and the impact on his family life. I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.

Yours faithfully,
Nicol Sturgeon MSP
Member for Glasgow Govan


The relevant part of the MSP's code of conduct which Nicola Sturgeon followed is below and I've put in bold the important phrases:

SECTION 8: ENGAGEMENT AND LIAISON WITH CONSTITUENTS

8.1 Dealing with individual constituents’ cases

8.1.1 Every constituent is represented by one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs.
It is expected that each member will take on a case when approached although it is recognised thatthere may be legitimate reasons for a member to decline a constituent’s case in certain circumstances, for example, where a constituent requests an MSP to take inappropriate action, or if that case seeks action which would represent a conflict of interest with existing casework or is contrary to the member’s political beliefs. If so, the member would ordinarily be expected to inform the constituent that the member is not taking up the case


Under the code of conduct an MSP is expected to take on every case that is brought before them unless it is "inappropriate".

Unfortunately there is no definition of "inapppropriate" but unless it is against the rules to make a representation to a judge about sentencing on behalf of a constituent once a verdict in a trial has been reached then what Nicola did was entirely appropriate.

The question Subrosa is what would you prefer, an MSP who believes that they were elected to represent you whatever your views or what you've done or one who will drop you like a hot potato if they think it will harm their career?



28 comments:

Caron said...

I'm not sure Malc would be delighted at being described as a Lib Dem member when he spends a fair amount of cyberspace trying to wind us up:-).

I am a Lib Dem and I tend to agree with you that this isn't a resigning matter. I don't want to see casework become a political football.

I think Rauf's crime was appalling, but also that all Nicola was really doing was making sure that all the authorities had the relevant facts. I'd have maybe worded the letter slightly differently but I wouldn't fault her for doing what she sees as her job as an MSP.

Vronsky said...

The SNP really has to buck up its ideas a bit and get into what really is pleasing and acceptable to the Herald and the BBC. This wicked pleading for people who are - let's face it - little better than bloody darkies, is totally beyond the pale. Nuke them. Bomb them. Torture them. Murder their children in front of them. Raze their homes then wrench their fingernails off until they admit they did it themselves.

Honestly, Nicola - wise up. If you want favourable press in Scotland, you need to become the Scottish Sarah Palin. Ragheads are not there to be helped - they're fucking game - sight and shoot. Jeez. It's so obvious.

Quiet_Man said...

Honestly Vronsky it's bleeding heart liberals like yourself that have ruined this country with your namby pamby wishy washy laissez faire attitude towards immigrants.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

Rauf, 59
defrauded £80,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions


was jailed for four years for fraud in 1996,for stealing £58,624 in pension and benefit payments by forging signatures on almost 800 DSS payment orders and keeping the cash for himself.


Rauf, has a £400,000 house in Maxwell Park, Glasgow

he also owned a £200,000 property in Newington, Edinburgh,From which was receiving £650 a month rent while claiming benefits over a five-year period.


He completed paperwork declaring that he owned his property at Springkell Avenue and that he had £67 in savings in a bank account.”



Not a very worthy Constituent and once found guilty.
Nicola should have more concern for her law abiding Constituents who have lost £80000 which could of helped more deserving people.

DougtheDug said...

Thanks for highlighting the comment Subrosa and I forgot to attribute the letter to the Scotsman who published a picture of it.

The whole affair is starting to fizzle out. It reminds me quite strongly of the attack on Kenny MacAskill about the release of Al Megrahi.

First there is a huge outcry and froth from Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems along with the press. The BBC is as usual the most excited of all with the whole point being an attempt to claim the scalp of an SNP Minister through a media frenzy and nothing else.

Then as it becomes apparent that no rules were broken, Kenny MacAskill followed legal procedures and Nicola Sturgeon kept to the MSP's Code of Conduct, it all degenerates into muttering, whining and complaining about, "judgement", from the opposition benches.

I watched Labour's broadcast arm, Reporting Scotland, tonight and they had toned down a lot though they tried their best to put as much anti-SNP spin on it as possible. They always end up in a conflict between their natural support of Labour and their legal obligation to be impartial and as with Kenny MacAskil have had to back down as no evidence of rule-breaking comes to light.

Before I commented on any blog about this affair the first thing I did was to read up on what an MSP's obligations are to a constituent in order to find out why Nicola wrote that letter. They weren't difficult to find, just two clicks into the Scottish Parliament website. I suspect my knowledge on that subject is now much greater than most opposition MP's, political editors and correspondents.

subrosa said...

Ooops sorry Caron, do you want me to amend it to supporter?

I agree with you, I too may have worded the letter differently but with Findlay making it public, no MSP will ever support a constituent ever again, regardless of circumstances.

Just don't get charged with a crime you didn't commit is the message.

subrosa said...

Strong stuff Vronsky, but I see your meaning. Maybe beating a few children on the streets would gain her favour and kicking the feet from under pensioners.

Oh Gordon Brown's done that already.

subrosa said...

I know QM, he's just a sandal wearing veggie is Vronsky. He sees good in everyone as they do.

subrosa said...

Niko, the man's house was worth £300,000 yesterday. Has his notoriety increased it by 33%?

subrosa said...

ITV at 6pm were fairly stirring it Doug. True the Code of Conduct wasn't hard to find.

Strange how no other MSP has ever been approached by someone who has been charged with a crime isn't it?

Strathturret said...

Perhaps Nicola is guilty of not being streetwise enough? I see nothing wrong with what she said in the letter. Sending a fraudster to jail when you can recoup the money stolen from his assets seems pointless. Lets leave the jails free for violent criminals.

I suspect that many MPs/MSPs wouldn't have touched this case with a bargepole. That doesn't make them right.

subrosa said...

By the sound of it no other MSP touches cases such as this - well none put their hand up yesterday.

Exactly Strathturret. What good is it sending a thief to jail?

Mind you, his first offence was a bad one I have to admit. You'd have thought he'd have learned his lesson. Who could forget having a £200,000 flat for goodness sake?

I would hazard a guess that Nicola didn't know about his first offence.

Malc said...

Malc is neither a Lib Dem member nor supporter. I can confirm the factual inaccuracy here, for I am Malc. And I'm pretty pissed to be described as such! You'd never make it as an academic with shoddy research like that Subrosa!

On a serious note, as I've written since, it was my understanding from the Radio Scotland phone-in that it was Findlay who made the letter public but as yet I haven't seen that said anywhere else.

subrosa said...

I'm a bit lost here Malc. I certainly haven't said that.

As for being an academic, thanks but no thanks. There are enough of those in my family.

Strathturret said...

Yes one rather thinks that Mr Findlay had something to do with this story's rapid promotion.

A man who has grown rich defending criminals.

Malc said...

The academic jibe was a reference to the fact that it was wrong! Anyway, my distinct lack of love for the Lib Dems isn't really the point you were making - the case for the defence of Ms Sturgeon really is just political naivety and misjudgement.

I can honestly say I've worked for MSPs who ignore outright the Code of Conduct - if a case isn't beneficial politically, it isn't taken on. Which makes this case even stranger.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Yesterday I commented that Ms Sturgeon had done no wrong and it was for the court to decide and sentence.

I hold to that.

However having read a bit more on this case it's clear the man involved is a shyster and, given his previous convictions not a very intelligent shyster at that.

Given that his guilt is proven, he should be ordered to repay the £80k plus interests and all costs associated with the investigation and sentencing. His properties/assets should be taken by the court.

As to sentencing - whatever the total costs amounted to I would divide by the minimum wage which would then be the hours he would have to do in community service.

Or, if within six months, he obtains a position of work which removed him and his family totally from the need for benefits, the community service would be suspended under licence until he'd maintained the employment and income for five years.

It costs a lot to keep crooks in jail, which may make sense when they are a danger to society - but parasites are better having the habit ground out of them.

subrosa said...

I hold to my opinion too RA, but I do feel this bloke is a crook. Someone claiming benefits when he has property at the value he supposedly owns? Is that right in today's society? If it is then I'll buy a more expensive house then claim benefits.

No that's wrong and you're idea is a very good one.

He shouldn't be jailed, he should be humiliated with community service.

The thought of hurting your family is one of the reasons many people don't break the law, but this man has no respect for his.

Stephen Glenn said...

Subrosa nowhere did I say that he should not be offered assistance. Indeed on my first post on the subject I state that quite clearly I take the opposite view on that.

I believe I did say that the plead for a non-custodial sentance with his prior record was both a reason why this could not be claimed to be a mistake, not a reason for a mere repayment and fine to be issued.

The man has defrauded DWP out of almost £140,000 on two separate occasions.

I also pointed out that it was neither an obligation or duty for Miss Sturgeon to write in such a manner.

subrosa said...

Stephen I didn't link to your first post I don't think.

OK, so you do think she should have done something, although I read it differently.

Then you say she was under no obligation or duty to do so. I'm quite confused here.

So should she have offered assistance or not? Do tell me because I'm sure many of my readers, along with myself would like to know Stephen.

My post is not about the 'mistake' wording it's about the principle. I thought I expressed my point very clearly.

DougtheDug said...

The most interesting part of the whole affair is not who has complained about Nicola Sturgeon's letter but who hasn't.

1. The Judge hasn't complained
2. The Procurator Fiscal hasn't complained
3. The Scottish Court Service hasn't complained.
4. And the Department of Work and Pensions hasn't complained.

Those who have complained are the opposition in Holyrood and the Press and regarding them as two separate items is like counting the eight legs on an octopus and declaring it as two four-legged animals. To define the boundary between the unionist opposition and the press is impossible.

The outrage, shouting and froth is not from those dealing with the case but from those who want to make political capital out of it. The unionists and the press hope that if they shout, "bad judgment", often enough no one will look at the facts in the case or the actual letter and believe what they say and parrot it.

subrosa said...

I read somewhere the judge said he'd never had a letter like it from such a high profile public figure Doug, but of course then I read that it's common for MPs/MSPs to write to courts.

Perhaps you didn't hear Brian Taylor's lunchtime programme. Draper came out with a comparison with Wendy Alexander's resignation and the audience audibly gasped. That's what it's about. As Brian Taylor said - "Revenge".

Stephen Glenn said...

Subrosa I heard one Procurator Fiscal on the news said he'd seen a letter like this in one in a hundred on the news on Thursday night. But that he'd never seen one asking for the lifting of a custodial sentence when one had already been served for the same offence.

My point in the initial post was a even before I knew the code or contents of the letter:

"Of course Nicola Sturgeon is entitled to write a letter of support for her constituents. She is quite entitled to write laying out any circumstances she feels the judge should take into consideration when making his judgement of sentence. However, she should really rely on research she is a trained solicitor after all."

Before outlying the "mistake" plea and "non-custodial" request.

My second post, which you had linked to was my reaction to the further issue of Doug's outlining of the code and the letter itself.

I think therefore as you can see it is not so much the letter, or the fact that the constituents MSP wrote it, put the level that the MSP looks for action from the judge in this circumstance that I took the exception to.

I hope this explains my position a little more clearly.

subrosa said...

Yes it does thank you Stephen. I've apologised several times now I think for causing what you see as offence to you. Really I can't do more.

I actually listened to this on STV last night. http://video.stv.tv/bc/news-100211-berlowiv/

Stoo said...

I've just read this letter after watching the circus that was First Minister's questions on Thursday past. It is clear that Labour are clutching at any straw to throw mud at the SNP government in the hope that some sticks. Gordon Brown once wrote a similar letter in defence of one of his constituents who, I believe, had £10,000 of cannabis growing in his house. Does that mean that Gordon Brown condones the selling and distribution of cannabis? Of course not.

This whole thing is political opportunism by a desperate opposition party and it makes me sick.

Nicola Sturgeon has absolutely nothing to apologise for, in my opinion.

subrosa said...

She needs to clear the air though Stoo and get this out of the way.

Stephen Glenn said...

Actually Subrosa I agree with you there. She needed to clear the air.

Problem was like so often with the SNP they failed to cease the initiative and now we are in recess, so it will just fester like a boil one way or another until Parliament returns.

subrosa said...

I agree with you Stephen. Unfortunately the SP recess worked against her really.

Let's see what she has to say in her reponse when they return. Of course she won't say she erred, she can't afford to do so, but maybe, just maybe, she'll say she could have worded the letter less strongly.

Taking into consideration all the circumstances ie she didn't deal with the matter personally all the time but she did sign the letter, I still feel she broke no law.

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