Sussex Police make ‘serious mistake’

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SUSSEX Police ‘clearly made a serious mistake’ in sending a harassment warning notice to East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton following a dispute with a constituent, a parliamentary committee has ruled.

The MP took his case to the Committee of Privileges after he sent a copy of parliamentary proceedings to a troublesome constituent, notifying him he would no longer act as his MP.

Following its sending, Sussex Police issued him, and others, a Police Information Notice (PIN), stating he could be liable for prosecution if he continued to ‘harass’ the constituent.

In its report, the committee said it was ‘clearly a contempt’.

It said: “A threat of legal action arising from the content of a speech made in the House and published by Order of the House is clearly a contempt.

“The ability of those who speak in Parliament to speak freely is a fundamental part of our democracy.

“The prospect that there may be legal proceedings in consequence of the making of or simple publication of, such a speech is likely to have a chilling effect on MPs and on others who take part in official proceedings.”

In response, Sussex Police said it would give the report ‘careful and serious consideration’.

A spokesman said: “We dealt with this as an operational matter, as we would any other, and in issuing Police Information Notices to all parties, our aim has always been to reach a resolution, treating everyone fairly and in accordance with the law.

“Police Information Notices do not in themselves constitute any kind, or threat of formal legal action and are issued with the intent of preventing further escalation of an issue.

“The question of Parliamentary Privilege and associated legislation is highly complex, as was evidenced by the debate that took place at the Committee of Privileges. The Committee recognises that our breach was inadvertent.”