Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Resigning Matter? I Don't Think So

Labour have discovered Nicola Sturgeon wrote a letter to a court in support of a convicted fraudster. They are calling for her resignation.

Abdul Rauf already had a conviction for benefit fraud when he approached Ms Sturgeon, his MSP, to request her help. He had been accused again of defrauding the DWP of £80,000 but explained to her he accepted he was guilty but he had paid back some of the money and was awaiting the sale of his Edinburgh property before he could settle the full amount.

She foolishly wrote to the court that Mr Rauf had suffered from poor health for a number of years and he had a family with children under the age of 10.

"He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the further affect this will have on Mr Rauf's health and the impact on family life."

Ms Sturgeon's defence is that she acted fully in accordance with her MSP duties. It is all very well to assist constituents but sensible judgements must be made. In this case her judgement was poor, but for labour to call it a resigning matter is laughable.

The SNP needs to ensure their constituency support staff research cases more thoroughly. Only last month Alex Salmond also was found to have acted inappropriately.


Dean MacKinnon-Thomson said...

It is not a resigning matter as you say Subrosa.

Desperation, and the trumph of hope over reality on the part of Labour me thinks!

Ollie Cromwell said...

Her judgement isn't poor its appalling, but if you guys want her you can have her, you elected her after all. Mad as a hatter in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Without knowing all the fact of the case, like whether he actually suffered bad heath, had young children etc, etc, etc, I couldn't comment on Ms Sturgeon's judgment.

I note that the sum involved in his fraud was considerably less than the former home secretary Smith stole from the country in housing benefits. And goodness gracious me, no one even had to get her MP to write to anyone. They just let her off with it.

How many of the other 300 plus of the lobby dossers in the English parliament stole far more than that and only had to pay it back, or just apologise like Smith.

One point that James makes on Scot Goes Pop, is that we mustn’t have a situation where Ministers are scared to do their best for their constituents because they may be attacked like this.

Swiss Bob said...

Mrs Sub,

I'm sure you know about this, but there is an update: Edinburgh council's shameful treatment of serving soldier's daughter.

Please feel free to republish.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Don't think we agree on this SR.

Judgements for the courts and by the excerpts quoted of Ms Sturgeons letter she has pleaded but not argued in mitigation.

Seems to me she was doing exactly what the representatives of people should be doing. A concept lost to Labour in it's dim and dusty past - unless of course the brown envelope syndrome is involved.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I would forgive Nicola anything. This is a cock up and not a resigning issue

Thanks, BTW for the word of support, it means a lot. I believe I have my mojo back.

subrosa said...

Exactly Dean. Sadly the issue was the content of FMQs too. Quite tedious writing that summary I can tell you!

subrosa said...

So you suggest your MP only helps you if they think you're right then Ollie?

subrosa said...

I entirely agree with James tris and have put a similar comment in my speedily composed FMQs.

subrosa said...

SB thank you for that. I will use it I assure you.

subrosa said...

You'll see I've changed my mind now RA, once I publish FMQs.

subrosa said...

Let me share a little of your mojo please WW. ;)

Strathturret said...

Part of Labour's continual attacks on the SNP. Another (yawn) anti SNP headline.

Alex Salmond may have demoted Fiona Hyslop, but the big four are untoucable because they are competent and have lots of grass roots support. If Gray and Goldie want an election...?

Ollie Cromwell said...

Well they certainly shouldn't be helping serial criminals who steal from the taxpayer whilst living in (relative) luxury stay out of jail Rosie. But then again, she's a politician so probably doesn't see anything wrong with stealing from the taxpayer.

subrosa said...

I'd go along with that Strathturret. Maybe one on 6 May would be an idea.

subrosa said...

Ollie, she wasn't 'helping'. She was doing her duty in informing the court of the family's position. Maybe the letter was a little 'strong' but it wasn't wrong.

DougtheDug said...

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:


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 that there 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?

Strathturret said...

Seriously should we be sending fraudsters to jail? They are full with real criminals; violent people who are being locked up to protect society.

This individual seemed to be prepared to pay back his ill gotten gains.

subrosa said...

Doug, I'm sure you know what I'd prefer. If you don't mind I'll put your comment in a post if I may. Will do it before I rush off to the card sharps.

subrosa said...

He's a chancer and a fool is Mr Rauf Strathturret but he should still receive attention from his MSP/MP.

JRB said...

If anything, Ms Sturgeon has risen in my estimation.

Whatever else she may be, she is certainly a bright and intelligent individual. I am sure she could foresee the ‘political’ ramifications such a letter of mitigation might have for someone in her position. How easy it would have been for her to simply not get involved, a course of action most other MSPs might have followed. Both she and Mr Rauf fully accept the error of his actions, nonetheless she proceeded with her plea of mitigation on behalf of her constituent.

Well done Nicola, and I commend her for her unselfish action.

subrosa said...

I agree John. Have just heard STV saying if the chap's found to be an SNP member or have donated to the SNP at all then it is a resigning matter.

It's all open and above board. She hasn't used false addresses or taken money from someone in a brown envelope or fiddled accounts. A far more serious matter that is and still some labour MPs are in place.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Resigning matter? On thecontrary, I think she should be encouraged to defend all her constituents likewise.

Reckon HypocritiNicky won't though. ;-)

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