The findings of an independent inquiry into events surrounding the resignation of disgraced former councillor Tom Dewey have been published.
Chair John Henderson concludes that the “council’s constitution and governance processes worked as they should” after officers first learned of Dewey’s arrest for possession of indecent images of children in May 2022.
He also commends Town Hall officials for their “cool heads and steady hands” in dealing with a “very difficult, rapidly evolving situation”.
Dewey was arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on 29 April 2022 and went on to be elected as a councillor for De Beauvoir on 5 May 2022.
It was not until Friday 13 May 2022 that the council was informed of Dewey’s arrest in a referral from the NCA.
That kicked off what Henderson describes in his report as a “challenging weekend”, which resulted in Dewey quitting as a councillor the following Monday – just 11 days after he was elected.
Dewey, who ignored requests to take part in the inquiry, was later handed a 12-month suspended sentence in August 2023 after being convicted.
Another key figure who decided not to participate is former mayor Philip Glanville, who shared a house with Dewey until that May weekend in 2022.
Henderson reports that Glanville was first informed of Dewey’s arrest on the morning of Saturday 14 May 2022 in a phone call with then council chief executive Mark Carroll.
Later that same day, Glanville hosted a now notorious Eurovision party, with Dewey in attendance, at the house they shared.
When a photograph of that party resurfaced a year later, Glanville was suspended by the Labour Party and resigned as mayor.
Henderson writes: “There is evidence that Mr Glanville did not know of [Dewey’s] arrest until Mr Carroll informed him on 14 May 2022, but there is also evidence that Mr Glanville ignored advice in continuing with the Eurovision party after being informed of the arrest.”
The report also finds, on the balance of probabilities, that Dewey had kept the arrest to himself until he was confronted by Carroll in a face-to-face meeting on 16 May 2022.
The report states: “The NCA arrest was low-key, [Dewey] was alone at home, and, when he was presented with the facts on 16 May 2022, he was visibly shocked that the criminal justice system had worked as quickly as it had; this would suggest that he had hoped to put off the reckoning that he must have known was coming.”
Dewey resigned almost immediately after the meeting with Carroll, and handed in his council laptop and security pass that same evening.
In light of the “professional, political and personal relationship” that Dewey had with Glanville, Henderson criticises the “blurring of boundaries” between council members and officers.
He finds that this “impacted formal activities, including performance management, as well as a familiarity that went beyond members’ brief attendance at farewell events”.
He adds: “The officers’ Code of Practice is very clear about the need for impartiality, and it is heartening to hear from the current mayor that a professional and courteous relationship is what is sought; evidence from officers who attend meetings with her confirm that this is the case.”
Henderson also recommends that political groups “reassess their selection processes”.
“As part of that process, it would be worth reconsidering whether the decision by Hackney Labour to conduct candidate selection at ward level should be revisited for the 2026 election,” he writes.
But he gives short shrift to a suggestion made to the inquiry that any candidate seeking election should undergo a DBS check.
“DBS checks are a negative vetting measure, only looking for major issues such as existing convictions, and only as good as the day on which they were performed; this would also have to be a national decision, rather than something that Hackney Council could implement of its own volition.
“Mr Dewey would almost certainly have passed a DBS check in early 2022, and there is a risk that they might give a false sense of reassurance.”
Henderson says his “headline deduction is that Hackney Council’s safeguarding systems and processes worked perfectly in a very testing situation”.
He writes: “Particular credit must go to Ms Dawn Carter-McDonald, the interim chief executive, who was in May 2022 the director of legal, democratic and electoral services, and the council’s monitoring officer, for retaining a cool head and a steady hand in guiding the council’s elected members and officers through what was an unusually testing case.”
He continues: “There has been some discussion as to whether the council could have, or should have, been more open on the reasons for Mr Dewey’s resignation.
“It must be remembered that Mr Dewey could have remained a councillor until his sentencing in August 2023; he has an expectation to a private life, and a right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
“Put simply, the only person who could have made such an announcement is Mr Dewey, and he chose not to; for the council or the Labour Party to have done otherwise would have been wholly wrong.”
Concluding his report, Henderson describes Dewey as a “highly ambitious, but deeply flawed, young man” who “decided to launch his political career in Hackney Council, firstly as an officer, and subsequently as an elected member”.
He adds: “He developed a professional, political and personal relationship with the mayor [Philip Glanville] – by all accounts, including from political opponents, an effective politician, but probably naive in his dealings with Tom Dewey.
“Clearly and thankfully, this case is an outlier, but Mr Dewey’s adoption as a candidate damages other councillors who work hard for their communities.
“Formal DBS checks are almost certainly not the answer, but it would be worth looking again at the motivation and background of candidates.
“Whether selection at ward level allows sufficient scrutiny would be worth examining.”
Henderson goes on: “As well as the unnamed victims of Mr Dewey’s crimes, more locally in Hackney: a mayoral career lies in tatters; the council has been obliged to spend large sums of money on three additional elections; member and officer time has been diverted away from their core tasks to dealing with these issues; and the excellent work that Hackney Council has done to establish a shining reputation among London councils has been tarnished.
“The United Kingdom has a long-established practice of democratically-elected politicians deciding policy and politically-neutral officials implementing it across government, local government and the armed forces.
“In Hackney, those boundaries between politicians and officials became blurred, which affected judgement and reduced mutual trust.
“It is reassuring that, under the leadership of the newly-elected mayor and the interim chief executive, a more recognisable culture is being re-established.”