Court: Ex-police commissioner reveals why he told fellow politicians about criminal investigation into MP
A former police and crime commissioner accused of disclosing details of a criminal investigation into an MP claims he was simply advising politicians to make no comment about the inquiry.
Adam Simmonds, 40, is accused of illegally divulging details of a criminal investigation into Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough.
Northants Police began a fraud investigation concerning the MP and his wife, Jeanette, in 2013.
The criminal probe, concerning the payment of care fees for an elderly relative in the care of the County Council, was subject to rumour amongst Northamptonshire councillors and council officers and was eventually leaked to the press. No charges were ever brought against Mr Bone and the case was dropped.
Simmonds was Northamptonshire's first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), elected in the first set of elections to the role in 2012.
He accepts having conversations with a number of Conservative colleagues including Michael Ellis MP, Chris Heaton-Harris MP and then-leader of the Northampton Borough Council and Northampton County Councillor David Mackintosh.
Jurors heard a telephone chat between Simmonds and Mr Mackintosh took place the night before an article was published in 'The Times' in relation to the investigation.
Prosecutors claim the telephone call amounted to him 'making aware a high-ranking colleague in the Conservative Party that there might be intense media scrutiny the next day'.
Simmonds accepted the newspaper had attempted to get in touch with him for comment but said he was only aware of the content of the piece through his press office.
He told jurors he was merely 'asking that members of our local council make no comment'.
The court heard The Times told his press office they were running an expose that he felt 'far outstretched the police investigation'.
'It had nothing to do with the police investigation and was something I was not going to talk about,' he said.
Simmonds then raised the particulars of the charge against him, noting the disclosure of information without the permission of the data controller.
'I don't think this conversation fits very clearly with the allegation,' he said.
The former PCC described the political and executive functions of his role as 'difficult to separate' but denied he was acting on behalf of the Conservative Party when making the call.
Jurors have heard his claims that the investigation was already in the public domain and anything he relayed to third parties came not from the police or CPS, but from the 'huge gossip' within the council.
'People were talking about the nature of the criminal investigation in terms of its link to the civil case,' he said.
Prosecutor Christopher Foulkes asked: 'People?'
Simmonds replied: 'Councillors, the local council,' before Mr Foulkes asked which ones.
'Who told you about the civil and criminal cases? From who did you hear any gossip from at all?' the prosecutor followed up.
But Simmonds claimed he 'can't remember any names' now, suggesting some had left in the years since, but added: 'Basically, the council was leaking like a sieve.'
He continued: 'It would be more accurate that there was a general discussion and gossip was rife but I cannot remember names at the time.'
Simmonds said his memory of people talking about it may have amounted to 'overhearing things being said or jokes' rather than individuals approaching him for confirmation.
He went on to concede he may have considered data protection training as 'not high priority'.
Simmonds, of Leicester, denies a single count of breaching the Data Protection Act.
The trial continues.