Tom Dewey inquiry: Investigator reveals more details of probe into disgraced former councillor

John Henderson

Inquiry lead John Henderson. Photograph: Staffordshire County Council

More details have emerged about the probe into the Tom Dewey scandal, including how many people the investigator spoke to at Hackney Council.

The independent inquiry concluded previously that very little that could have been done to stop Dewey from becoming an elected councillor, despite his arrest for possessing indecent images of children.

Inquiry lead John Henderson told councillors during a scrutiny panel hearing on Tuesday that Dewey was a “very ambitious young man” who targeted the council as a “springboard” for his career.

Dewey worked as a council officer for two years and became a Labour councillor for 11 days in May 2022 before resigning.

Henderson said that in strictly legal terms, Dewey had been a councillor for “about 10 hours” between the moment he signed his declaration and his resignation.

The borough’s interim chief executive Dawn Carter-McDonald said the council is not aware if Dewey had any official contact with children in his capacity as a councillor.

However, Carter-McDonald could not comment on what contact he had had with children “prior to being elected”.

She said it was likely he would have been limited by his bail conditions, which he was subject to when the council found out about his arrest in May 2022.

Tom Dewey at the election count in May 2022. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Henderson, a former chief executive of Staffordshire County Council, said it was “rather unfortunate” that neither Dewey or Glanville responded to his request for an interview.

He was given an initial list of names to contact, many of which resulted in follow-up interviews, after he was tipped off about members he should approach.

In total, he interviewed around 15 people at the Town Hall.

“I didn’t follow up with any of his [Dewey’s] contacts,” Henderson explained. “None of them were named to me, it has to be said.

“Nobody said, ‘He’s best friends with X, you need to speak to them’. Had they done so, I would have followed up, but they were never named, and that was quite telling.”

There was a “mixture of disgust and shame” among the officers he spoke to, he said.

Henderson said he couldn’t just email Dewey due to data protection rules, and that it was “quite difficult to find an officer who was willing to contact him”.

A councillor told the investigation that there was a whistleblower, but in the end no-one came forward through the official whistleblowing channel.

At the scrutiny panel on Tuesday, Cllr Penny Wrout said she was concerned that the council had told the public at the time of Dewey’s resignation that he had stepped down due to ‘personal reasons’.

“It potentially casts doubt on those in the future who do want to step down for genuine personal reasons that they want to keep private, like serious health issues or family reasons,” she pointed out.

Henderson supported the course of action taken by the council, saying it was better to err on the side of caution and announce limited details regarding his resignation, which was the legal advice the council was given at the time.

He said despite the temptation to either over- or underreact, the council got their response “about as right as you possibly can” after finding out about Dewey’s arrest.

However, the scandal has been a “very damaging episode” for Hackney Council, both externally and internally, Henderson said.

He told the council’s political groups to reassess how they select candidates, and said the council should review more widely the “culture around the political impartiality” of officers.