I have been reading the judgement given against Bertha Joseph and I am struck by the strength of the Judge’s language in criticising her. He refers to her “recklessness as to the propriety of her behaviour” and her “repeated lack of credibility”.
The appeal was based on the idea that the sanction against her was too severe, so there is little discussion of the facts, as they were admitted, just any mitigating factors.
In comments to the Harrow Times, Bertha Joseph has attempted to suggest that the judgement against her was some sort of political conspiracy. That really doesn’t wash. The Borough Solicitor appointed a senior Council officer who specialised in financial investigations for the initial report, and a solicitor independent of the Council for a second report. None of these people can be regarded as party political. The Standards Committee itself has two independent members, a Tory, a Liberal Democrat and a Labour person. The independent Tribunal has now confirmed their decision as “entirely appropriate”. That Bertha Joseph still refuses to accept this says more about her than about anyone else.
The Tribunal certainly didn’t accept her relaxed view. It said: “Quite clearly she solicited gifts from more than one person and failed to account properly for them. Attempting to plead mitigation in that way does not help her cause. Nor does the submission that her actions took place in the context of organising an event to benefit her chosen charities. There is more than a possibility that a greater financial effect would have been achieved had she not chosen to spend the cash she received in the way that she did.” I think that is pretty damning.
Interestingly, the Tribunal didn’t see any need to determine whether Bertha Joseph had sought to blame officers. That surprises me, as I thought that was quite an important issue. They simply say: “But officers cannot be expected to account for money paid in cash to the Mayor and not handed over to them. Her claim to have relied on others to record sponsorship simply lacks any credibility.”
The comment that I think that Boris Johnson and the Tories need to think about is: “She surely cannot expect again to serve as Mayor given the disrepute that she has caused to the office.” Doesn’t that logic also apply to her membership of the London Fire Authority? And does it not also apply to whether the Tories put her forward as one of their candidates in the local elections in May?
You can read the full judgement on http://www.adjudicationpanel.tribunals.gov.uk/