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‘No evidence’ Labour fulfilled duty of care to party member who supplied drug to MP

04 Jul 2024 6 minute read
Stephen Doughty and Byron Long in the Quantum Cafe, Cardiff Bay, where Mr Long claims he handed over prescription anti-depressants to the politician

Martin Shipton

A vulnerable constituent who illegally supplied a Welsh Labour MP with a prescription drug has been told there is no evidence that the party fulfilled its safeguarding responsibilities towards him by liaising with social workers.

In 2021 Stephen Doughty, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth and a Shadow Foreign Office Minister, admitted asking Byron Long to give him a diazepam tablet on a single occasion after the Mail on Sunday was shown text messages between the two men.

Mr Long, who like the politician has mental health issues, claims he supplied Mr Doughty with such tablets multiple times, but the politician has denied that.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner concluded in a report published in October 2021 that “[by] obtaining diazepam from the complainant, Mr Doughty was complicit in a criminal offence.” However the Commissioner did not uphold Mr Long’s complaint against the MP.

Preferential treatment

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) later concluded that South Wales Police appeared to have shown preferential treatment towards Mr Doughty in handling the case. It ordered the police to reinvestigate it.

In a letter to Mr Long, an IOPC casework manager stated: “Following your attendance at Cardiff Bay police station on May 27, 2021, in relation to the supply of a controlled drug to Stephen Doughty MP, you received a police caution. You asserted that Mr Doughty’s actions should be criminally investigated. You alleged that:

* Mr Doughty’s status as an MP meant the police did not wish to take action because he is a powerful and influential person, despite evidence in the form of a text from Mr Doughty asking for class C drugs.

* You stated that you are a vulnerable adult, and you believe that Mr Doughty used his position of influence to take advantage of you. You believe this should have triggered serious safeguarding concerns about the nature of your relationship with Mr Doughty.

* You questioned whether Mr Doughty’s relationship with Alun Michael, [then the] Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, was a factor in the decision not to take action against Mr Doughty.”

The complaint handler at South Wales Police concluded that the service provided to Mr Long was acceptable. However the IOPC ruled otherwise.

Beneficial 

The body’s casework manager stated in the letter to Mr Long: “Section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes it a criminal offence for a person to have a controlled drug in their possession. I have taken into consideration the complaint handler’s findings regarding the evidential threshold for the possession of a controlled drug not being met in this case.

“However, it is my opinion that it may have been beneficial to the complaint handler’s enquiries to have made reference to the appropriate legislation governing the possession of a controlled drug, and how the legislation applied to the alleged conduct of both parties.

“The evidence that I have considered leads me to conclude that there appears to be an inconsistency in the manner in which you were dealt with by South Wales Police, following your admission of being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug, and Mr Doughty’s apparent acknowledgement regarding obtaining a controlled drug, which did not result in further investigative lines of enquiry.

“I am not satisfied that the disparity in the treatment between you and Mr Doughty was adequately addressed in the complaint handler’s outcome letter. To this end, it is my view that the complaint handler’s outcome letter did not provide sufficient information to fully explain the complaint handler’s findings, and for you to be able to understand how the conclusion was reached that the service level in respect of this allegation was acceptable in the circumstances.

“Therefore … I am not satisfied that you have been provided with a reasonable and proportionate outcome to this complaint. As a result, your review in respect of this aspect of your complaint is upheld. I have determined that it is necessary for this allegation to be investigated by South Wales Police.”

Under caution

The force looked again at the case, but did not accept that it had acted unreasonably in not interviewing Mr Doughty under caution. Mr Long’s legal representatives continue to raise concerns about the police handling of the matter with the IOPC.

Mr Michael said at the time that he had had “no involvement whatsoever in the police handling of the case”.

Mr Long has now released recent correspondence between himself and the UK Labour Party in which the party claimed it had fulfilled its responsibilities towards him as a vulnerable adult and party member. A Labour official wrote to him stating: “As you are aware, there has been significant investigative work into your concerns by South Wales Police, the IOPC, and the House of Commons, and I am aware that you have been in contact with the Labour Party’s Complaints Team separately. I can also reassure you that the party’s safeguarding manager did previously consult with Cardiff Adults Social Care. In light of the actions undertaken by the Labour Party and these other external agencies, it has been determined that there are no necessary next steps for the Safeguarding Team to undertake.”

However, when Mr Long submitted a subject access request to Cardiff council seeking details of the contact between the party and the council, he received a response that said: “Thank you for your request under the Data Protection Act 2018. We are writing to advise you that following a search of our paper and electronic records, we have established that the information you requested is not held by the council.”

Mr Long said: “The fact that the council can find no record of the Labour Party making contact leaves me shocked and appalled. I find it difficult to believe Labour’s claim that its safeguarding manager discussed my case with the council. If that’s the truth, it’s absolutely disgraceful.”


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