Peterborough’s Labour hopeful shocked by party worker’s conviction

Palmer, left, in the invited audience for the visit by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accompanied by Lisa Forbes. EMN-150801-173955009
Palmer, left, in the invited audience for the visit by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accompanied by Lisa Forbes. EMN-150801-173955009
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A week after a Peterborough Labour Party election agent was jailed for breaching sexual offences prevention orders, the party’s parliamentary candidate has finally broken her silence on the matter.

But Lisa Forbes, who was selected as the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for Peterborough two years ago, has declined to talk about the role played by Andrew Palmer in city politics, including suggestions that he led her own selection campaign.

Palmer handing out leaflets to commuters at Peterborough railway station  with Lisa Forbes in 2012

Palmer handing out leaflets to commuters at Peterborough railway station with Lisa Forbes in 2012

Palmer duped many people and there is no suggestion that Lisa Forbes or Labour officials knew about his criminal record or activities.

Andrew Palmer (52) was jailed for 20 months last week at Peterborough Crown Court after twice breaching a sexual offences prevention order and a community order. He had twice spent time behind bars for possessing indecent images of children.

In court it was said that police had given Palmer the highest rating for a sexual offender and he was described as a “real risk” to the public.

The court was also told that Palmer had first been jailed in 1979 for indecent assault.

It has since been revealed that Palmer’s activities in Peterborough were also being monitored by Cambridgeshire Police following his release from his second term in jail in 2007.

Seven days ago Ms Forbes refused to comment on Palmer and the role he played within the constituency Labour party.

Despite repeated telephone calls, voice mail messages and text message, Ms Forbes did not return calls and refused to make any comment.

That was until yesterday, when a three line email message was sent to the Peterborough Telegraph by Graham Moonie, the regional communications officer for the East of England Labour Party.

The message states simply: “Recent events have been deeply shocking and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. The police will continue to receive our full support. I am pleased that the Labour Party took swift and firm action as soon as the truth became apparent.”

When asked what the “swift and firm action” had been, Mr Moonie emailed: “Andrew Palmer has been expelled from the Labour Party.”

It was later followed by a further email from an East of England Labour Party spokesperson stating: “Any suggestion that Lisa Forbes was aware that Andrew Palmer had committed an offence or could or should have known that he was being watched by the police is clearly utterly ridiculous and wrong.

“Andrew Palmer’s crimes are disgusting and she has been clear in her condemnation of them.

“As soon as it was confirmed to the East of England Labour Party that Andrew Palmer had committed these offences, swift action was taken and he was expelled from the Labour Party.”

But Ms Forbes has still not spoken about the extent of Palmer’s role in the Peterborough Labour Party. She has also not commented on whether action has been taken to ensure such a person could not secure such positions in the future. A number of emails sent by Palmer - and seen by the Peterborough Telegraph - show that he regularly signed himself as the campaign coordinator for Lisa Forbes.

The emails also indicate that Palmer had a number of important posts within the Peterborough Labour Party. He signs himself as the Peterborough CLP assistant secretary and the South and East Labour Party branch secretary and the East and Dogsthorpe Labour Team Member.

Last month he was one of those invited to a visit by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who was accompanied by Lisa Forbes, and he was also pictured with Lisa Forbes handing out leaflets to commuters at Peterborough Station in December 2012.

Palmer was agent for former member of the Peterborough Labour Party Nicola Day-Dempsey at the 2014 local elections.

Now the Green parliamemntary candidate for North West Cambs, she recalled: “Andrew Palmer seemed to appear on the political scene in about 2011. I think he came from Scotland.

“He could be aggressive and rude and there were three or four complaints about him.

“He did a lot of running about, knocking on doors each day for weeks on end and for no pay. It was a bit odd.”

Convicted paedophile Andrew Palmer was being closely supervised by police in Peterborough and in some cases was stopped from joining some city organisations.

But that did not stop Palmer from playing key roles in the Eastfield Residents Association, of which he was chairman, and the Friends of Central Park. He was also a fundraiser the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. A police spokeswoman said: “Police manage Mr Palmer within the community and are aware of his associations, membership of various organisations and his approaches to some community groups.

“The management of such an individual to reintegrate into the community involves close supervision and continuous review of his circumstances. It is clear that some of his associations which he was allowed to pursue did not contravene the restrictions placed upon him or his sexual offences prevention order (SOPO), although, through the intervention and direction of police, he was prevented from joining other associations as they were deemed unsuitable and would breach his restrictions. A breach was however identified and he was arrested at the earliest opportunity and placed before the court.

“We are currently reviewing the circumstances that he may have been linked to a local police SpeedWatch scheme through his links to a local community group. The circumstances around such association would not be in breach of his restrictions or SOPO. Any confidential information that is held by agencies on an individual has to be managed in line with the data protection act and police can only make a disclosure where it is lawful. All voluntary agencies are responsible for having effective policies and practices in place to manage the safeguarding of individuals within that group. There are strict guidelines, policies and legislation which cover the management of registered sex offenders within the community and we are confident they have been applied appropriately with regards to Mr Palmer.”

Tim Gregory, Eastfield Residents’ Association treasurer, said: “We felt betrayed by him because he could not be honest with us. I’ve known him since 2012.”