Croydon Communities Consortium (CCC) Committee – Full Statement
We, and others associated with us, have been subjected to a malicious and protracted stream of unfounded allegations and agitation over the past five years. The committee discussed the situation at length and made the following brief initial statement.
The committee agreed to pause before publishing the full details, in order to give the other main party a final opportunity to agree to meet to discuss the issues and to retract the allegations.
We are therefore releasing the following full statement to set the record straight.
Croydon Communities Consortium (CCC) Committee statement re allegations
We, and others associated with us, have been subjected to a malicious and protracted stream of unfounded allegations and agitation over many years. This is not helpful to anyone involved, nor is it to the wider Croydon community.
The committee has taken time to consider how to present this and did not want to put all this information in the public domain. However, following the continuing behaviour and actions of these people, the committee has decided to publish the full details.
- We are an open and inclusive organisation, welcoming anyone with an interest in Croydon to our public meetings and we absolutely refute any claims of Islamaphobia or any form of racism or prejudice of any kind.
- We are not a political organisation and have no association with any political party whatsoever.
- We maintain accounts and these are presented annually at the AGM and published on our website.
- We have a proven track record and a good working relationship with the Council, the Police, the local community and its many groups and organisations.
The initial allegation, the investigation and subsequent escalation
In 2014, our then Vice Chair retweeted another person’s tweet on his personal Twitter timeline. The content of the original tweet was interpreted in a variety of ways by different people. An identity known as West Croydon Voice (WCV), known to be an individual and not a community group, run by a Croydon resident known to the Vice Chair, used this as an opportunity to attack him and used his position on CCC to add leverage to this attack. She branded him and his actions Islamophobic.
She took no action whatsoever to comment on or challenge the retweet or to get the original tweet or retweet taken down. Instead, she went to the Council and involved the local press.
No one at all in the eight weeks between this retweet and the news article being published about this, drew any attention to or challenged either the original tweet posted by another account or the retweet made, which is very unusual for a public platform like Twitter if any offence has been caused.
When the news broke, groups and individuals rallied around to try to sort out the matter, many attesting to the Vice Chair’s good standing within the community and his long record of working with and representing the diverse community of Broad Green. This included groups and individuals from different parts of Croydon.
On learning of the allegation, the Vice Chair publicly apologised unreservedly if any offence had been caused, stated that he had been incredibly naive, and denied being Islamaphobic in any way.
He also immediately and voluntarily presented himself to the Police. However, the Police were at a loss as there was nothing on record. Despite the Vice Chair visiting on a number of occasions to pursue this in light of what had been reported, still no record of any complaint or report could be found.
The Council took the allegation seriously and wrote to CCC and to the Vice Chair.
The CCC committee took the allegation seriously and instigated an investigation. The committee actively encouraged this woman and those associated with her, who were quick to extend the allegations made, to present all their evidence to the committee. A public appeal for any evidence from anyone with any information was also made. Nothing materialised.
Despite chasing on a number of occasions, not one of those making the allegations offered anything.
The committee also actively sought any information from the Police and the Council.
A request for information from the Council was deemed to be a Freedom of Information request to follow their clear processes, but this naturally delayed the Committee receiving that information.
The Police always maintained that they had nothing to offer as there was no case or any record of a complaint being logged. The Chair attended the police station to hear this first hand.
As a result of the ongoing allegations and the committee being unable to investigate the matter due to the lack of co-operation of the people making the accusations, the Vice Chair stood down, whilst still strongly refuting the claims made.
The committee later learnt, via the redacted email which arose as a result of the FOI and in conversation with the Council, that the details of the retweet had been passed to the Police by the Council in line with their procedures. The Police had duly reviewed the information and ruled out the tweet, its contents, or the act of retweeting it, as meeting any threshold for investigation or action. This explains why there was nothing on file when the Vice Chair presented himself voluntarily to the Police. This would also have been reported back to ‘WCV,’ who the committee also learnt during this process was known to the Council as a repeat complainant. Despite this, this woman continued to embellish her claims.
Blog posts were written by Inside Croydon – a blog run by a local Croydon resident, with little reference to the facts and without ever any contact with CCC for comment but clearly fed by the claims of the woman and those associated with her.
The accusations were extended to the sharing of strings of racist and Islamaphobic tweets and posts being made by the now ex-Vice Chair, claiming that CCC was a political organisation with links to or run by UKIP and that CCC was withholding public funds or using them in inappropriate ways, and not accounting for them.
The agitation only escalated over time, with this woman up to five Twitter accounts to mock up interest in her allegations.
The accusations made escalated on Twitter, often copying in other accounts or using trending hashtags to draw added attention to the claims. Other methods were employed, including tweeting at anyone associated with CCC, including speakers at meetings and attendees, to dissuade them from engaging.
The full extent of her behaviour cannot be measured as she worked with a number of associates to extend and spread her claims, now focusing on CCC and anyone associated with the community group. This included working covertly by spreading claims in private discussions, emailing people, sending direct messages, contacting organisations with any association with CCC and speaking up in other forums. People were sent direct messages or told verbally that they must not engage or attend meetings.
The harassment included invading the lives of committee and others associated with CCC by making unfounded accusations and spreading lies more widely by sharing allegations with groups, organisations and charities with whom they were involved, sometimes with no direct connection with Croydon or with CCC.
The unwarranted harassment has been brought to the attention of the general public by those trying to help make it stop, such as in articles written for the Croydon Citizen, and the disgraceful behaviour of the agitators was raised on a Croydon Radio programme. This included reporting of the agitators’ attempts to disrupt an AGM and their behaviour referred to as “truly vicious trolling” and CCC having been “under vitriolic attack”.
The harassment has also been brought to the attention of the Police by individuals, by at least one other community group, and then by the CCC committee. Community activists have tried to help. The offer of independent mediation organised by one such activist was rejected outright by WCV. The police also tried to arrange mediation, again without success, as she refused to take part.
This harassment has gone on now for nearing five years. Despite blocking the Twitter accounts involved and not responding, as advised by the Police, and working in an inclusive and transparent way, the harassment continues.
Other areas where allegations have been made
Regarding the grant made by the Council, there was some confusion about the terms regarding the length of the grant and this was used too, to make more unfounded claims. This matter was resolved amicably between the Council and CCC committee through dialogue. The outcome of this was that CCC retained all funds from the original grant monies.
The financial accounts for CCC are reported and approved at the AGM each year and are available publicly on the website.
Another allegation was made that CCC had not paid for a venue hired for a public meeting and this, too, was played out on Twitter by a small group, including by the person who had agreed to the hire and the terms.
This person had been on the CCC committee at the time of agreeing to the hire of the Community Centre and had offered the venue at no cost. A fee for the hire was only agreed following the insistence of the other CCC committee members at that time, that the venue should receive payment for the hire.
A series of emails in the weeks leading up to the public meeting demanded varied, escalating sums for this hire. On the assurance of a Trustee of this venue that the original terms agreed would stand, the committee went ahead with the booking and made full payment on that basis. The cheque was returned. The Trustee again assured the CCC committee that there would be no other sum to pay and accepted the cheque on behalf of the Centre on the night. This, too, was returned.
The committee was then taken to court for non-payment of the increased amount demanded, despite the case being considered suitable for mediation by the judge on two separate occasions prior to reaching court. On each occasion, the committee agreed to mediation. On both occasions, the Community Centre refused.
The committee complied with the Court’s request for all relevant paperwork to be sent to the court and to the other party prior to the hearing. The other party did not provide any paperwork to back up their case.
The case then went to court. It was quickly dismissed, with CCC paying none of the costs, and having to pay only the originally agreed amount for this hire.
Relationship with the Council
CCC has a good relationship with the Council, frequently acting as a conduit to disseminate Council information to the community and to provide a healthy challenge. Council officers have attended CCC meetings and also send through information to highlight to residents. Council officers and councillors respond to requests for information arising from meetings to better inform the community. Councillors also regularly attend our meetings or ask that their apologies are noted.
Relationship with Police
In relation to the Police, the Police do attend meetings and continue to do so, as they would that of any other community group. This position has been made clear to Inside Croydon, directly by a senior officer. This officer even offered a recorded interview to Inside Croydon but the blogger did not take up this offer, yet continues to assert that the police will not attend meetings.
CCC is very supportive of the local police and have a good relationship with them. The committee was asked to post the local monthly ward policing newsletters on the CCC website in order that they reached more residents, back in January 2015, and we continue to do so. CCC also worked with the police to promote and take bookings for the special screenings of The Met at the David Lean Cinema. The Counter-Terrorism Team attended to provide training on steps the public can take to help the police combat terrorism and what to do in a terrorist attack. Chief Inspector Craig Knight attended personally to update the community on policing in Croydon with a Q and A at our meeting in November last year.
Apolitical nature of CCC
CCC is apolitical and everyone attending meetings is asked to refrain from making party-political statements or bringing along any party-political literature. This is clearly stated in publicity and also stated at the meetings.
All councillors are invited to meetings and attend in a non-party-political capacity, as do people of all political persuasions and none.
An image of the literature put on display at meetings is posted to the website for each meeting. The notes of meeting act as a record of what was covered and any notices given.
CCC works in a very transparent way, with meetings open to anyone with an interest in Croydon and anyone able to raise points, give a notice or suggest topics for future meetings.
Everyone attending a public meeting is given the opportunity to make comment on the meeting notes prior to them being finalised. All notes of meeting are posted on the website as are the annual accounts as previously mentioned.
Given the intense scrutiny that CCC has been under by this small group of agitators, it is sad that they continue to share articles and allegations based on information they must know to be untrue.
Everyone affected has taken every step possible but the harassment and the unfounded allegations have continued. This is nothing to do with holding individuals or a group to account. It is a malicious attempt to destroy the CCC, to disrupt the lives and work of the committee and those associated with us, and to bring division to the community. This really needs to stop.
Despite the constant barrage, the time spent dealing with this and all the upset it has caused, CCC goes from strength to strength as attested to by our growing number of followers and supporters and the committee offer thanks to those continuing to support us and our work.
We encourage you to look at our website and our social media. We encourage you to come along to a public meeting and see exactly what CCC is and does. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Negativity and division are so very counterproductive to community cohesion. We hope that we can now move on positively for the benefit of the community.
Please see the following details, articles and links
Invitation to ‘WCV’ to raise any issues in a public meeting in June 2015 not taken up. See notes of meeting where community also raise issues.
The Croydon Citizen independently live tweets the AGM in 2015. See the record of tweets, here. Some examples include..
Tom Black on Croydon Radio – recording of the segment covering CCC AGM 2015
This includes reference to
“truly vicious trolling”
Croydon Citizen articles, written by various community members:
Croydon’s appetite for Self Destruction – Sean Creighton, July 2015
“As I submit this piece to the Citizen, the Annual General Meeting of the Croydon Communities Consortium approaches (to be held on Thursday 16th July).
I will be attending in order to make a stand against destructive attacks upon it and upon me. The unpleasant and personal nature of these attacks is why I have not approved several attempts to post attacks on me on my blog site, and why I am now threatened with a hostile Twitter campaign.”
CCC…” has been under bitter and vitriolic attack“
“Clive [the then Vice Chair] unreservedly apologised for the re-tweet in an interview with the CroydonAdvertiser (on 29th September 2014): “There’s no way I am Islamophobic… I’ve been incredibly naive. If I offended anyone, I apologise unreservedly”. But rather than having his apology accepted, he has been hounded. The matter was even referred to the police who stated verbally that there is no case to answer, and hence took no action against him.”
‘The CCC Committee has found it difficult to counter the attacks on it. It’s not clear whether CCC’s critics think that it is racist, but it is in my view almost inconceivable that a racist organisation would advertise some of the British Black History events I have been involved in organising in Croydon. The CCC has done so.”
” If CCC folds as a result of bullying, harassment, misinformation and misinterpretation, the Croydon community will be the loser.”
And comments added by various people in response to the article.
How to spot a troll – Robert Ward – July 2016
Sean Creighton wrote recently of how social media can stifle debate and help destroy community. Sean and the Croydon Communities Consortium seem to have been targets. The perpetrators are known as trolls.“