Having covered the recent developments in Mervyn Barrett’s campaign to be Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, I was approached by @gillRadcliffe on Mervyn’s behalf to host his official statement as he no longer has easy access to internet publishing to do this. The statement is reproduced in full below.
24 October 2012-10-24
Statement of Mervyn Barrett OBE
Former PCC candidate for Lincolnshire
I confirm that I have today officially withdrawn from the election for Police & Crime Commissioner in Lincolnshire.
I have done so after discovering that I have been the victim of a bizarre and hugely embarrassing deception by the person who was acting – and I use the word “acting” quite deliberately – as my principal adviser and campaign manager until Saturday.
Matthew de Unger Brown purported to be an experienced campaigner and, for several months, I trusted him to arrange the administration, fundraising and publicity for my campaign.
Yesterday I finally realised that the whole thing had been a sham. Although I have been actively campaigning on the streets of Lincolnshire, with a website and promotional video in place, many other aspects of the plan that Matthew claimed to have delivered – such as tracking polls and leaflets for a door-to-door delivery – now appear to have been purely figments of his imagination.
I would like to start by saying that, as far as I am aware, I am the sole victim of this confidence trick. It has cost me dearly. In monetary terms, I believe myself to be out-of-pocket to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds and, inevitably, it will also have an impact on my professional reputation, something I have built up over a long and positive career in criminal justice. Of course, it has also ended my chances of being PCC for Lincolnshire, a role in which I sincerely believed I could use my professional experience to do good work.
Last weekend brought reports of inappropriate funding for my campaign from neo-conservative sources in America, with suggestions that this was some kind of deal I had entered into in return for promoting privatisation of police services in Lincolnshire. It was not: there was no such deal and no money. I had no privatisation agenda myself and no truck with anyone who wanted to go beyond the current arrangements. I believe it was something dreamed up by Matthew but he never discussed it with me until the story broke and, even then, did not tell me the truth. The statement issued afterwards, in my name, also originated from Matthew.
He was the person who opened and operated my account on Twitter and who now appears to have closed it. I can only assume that he was responsible for purchasing “followers” for my account over recent months and this is not something I’ve had any involvement in or knowledge of.
To my knowledge, there has been no funding for my campaign, other than from my own bank account, to which Matthew had access. It will take some days for me to establish how much has been spent, on what, and whether there are outstanding debts to be settled. For example, I understand that the video produced cost in excess of £30,000 and I do not know whether that bill has been paid.
I do not know the current whereabouts of Matthew de Unger Brown. Last time I spoke to him, he was still fabricating information to defend a number of his actions that I had begun to question. Now that I understand that he has deceived me on a shocking scale, I have no plans to speak to him again, though he has made many attempts to contact me.
I am consulting the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire with a view to officially reporting the matter to the police as a matter of urgency, either to the county force or in London. I am not at all bent on vengeance but I do feel that Matthew must answer for his actions. Information on the internet suggests strongly that this is not the first time he has deceived people about his identity, means and qualifications. I confess that I am worried he will orchestrate another deception of the kind he inflicted on me.
Inevitably, people will wonder how I could have been so taken in. First of all, I met Matthew early this year while I was working as Head of Resettlement Information for NACRO. Matthew had joined us as a volunteer, claiming a legal background and independent means. He impressed many people with his skills and intelligence, including me, and is undoubtedly a brilliant and charismatic character.
I was due to leave NACRO in June and, over the months, Matthew became aware of my interest in being a PCC and strongly encouraged me to stand. Although I had some reservations, I was eventually persuaded to embark on a campaign and to engage him as my right-hand from June. He claimed significant experience of elections from an earlier time as a member of the young Conservative movement and also from recent – and indeed current, he said – experience of American elections.
I realise now that I was naïve to accept his claims at face value without references, but there were a lot of factors that supported his claims. Matthew had a towering personality and demonstrated a considerable talent for everything he undertook and I am afraid I was swept away by it all. He had a plausible explanation for everything and, though at times I suspected that some of his claims were exaggerated, I believed in him and regarded him as a trusted ally and friend.
I feel totally betrayed and very hurt that he used me as he did to perpetuate some kind of Walter Mitty fantasy. I also feel very foolish that I fell for his fabrications, when I have a track record of sound professional judgement, but I have to accept the reality.
I apologise to the people of Lincolnshire, and the other PCC candidates, that Matthew’s deceptions fooled me in a way that tainted the election. That was never my intention. I have been honest and genuine in my intentions at every stage and am still bewildered by the avalanche of revelations about Matthew over the past 24 hours.
Note to editors: For today, this is all I intend to say on this matter as I need time to address the legal and financial priorities of the situation and to gather my thoughts. I have not yet planned beyond that. Gillian Radcliffe – the former PCC candidate for South Yorkshire – has offered to release this statement on my behalf and to take calls for me today. She can be contacted via Twitter (@gillradcliffe) or by telephone on 07957 446659.
I feel sympathetic to Mervyn as it seems he has most likely been genuinely duped by a very accomplished fraudster. My almost tired refrain of ‘transparency’ still stands. If you’re not answering a Q because you don’t have that answer…look deeper.
There were aspects of Mervyn’s campaign, especially his ideals around reoffending which I wholeheartedly supported. Of course, thats not enough to make a good PCC, though it’s head & shoulders above many! I hope Mervyn recovers from this, makes a proper crime report with Lincolnshire, sees it through & goes on to do good work within the Criminal Justice or Social sectors.
A fine example of the folly of the whole PCC business. So easy for inept, inappropriate and incompetent candidates to be elected to a very powerful position of influence.
Barrett has many questions left to answer.
This is deeply distressing for Mervyn, who is a genuine and pleasant man, who has given an open and honest explanation.
How ironic that this elected post has been the very vehicle to create ever more inventive crimes. Promises of large amounts of money from undisclosable sources has got to be in the “too good to be true” box and reminds me of the saying; If a deal looks too good to be true then it probably is.”
Whilst I echo Marianne Overton`s comments above, I am a member of Lincolnshires gay community, concerned at the negative reporting of this affair in the Sunday Times.
I feel that this does not reflect well on Lincolnshire and that can see appropriate legal action taken against those whom Mervyn has had the misfortune to be in contact with
This highlights one if the many reasons why PCCs are a dangerous and inappropriate concept. It creates another tier of opportunity for chancers, activists and people prone to misjudgement and corruption. It politicises the police and it creates an opportunity for corrupt officials to abuse the position for their own financial gain. I feel for this particular candidate, but if he is naive enough to be conned, how can he have possibly overseen policing ?