Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Southend councillor set to take legal action against Thurrock Council

A SOUTHEND councillor is taking legal action against Thurrock Council after claiming he was “unlawfully detained” over a bribery allegation.

In 2018 Southend Council launched an investigation into Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, after claims by a whistleblower he had taken a £1,050 bribe from Southend Taxi Drivers’ Association to prevent Uber operating in Southend.

Mr Cox admitted the money had been placed in a joint account he shares with his wife, but said the money was used to pay for his wife’s legal fees relating to a personal matter.

The investigation was eventually dropped in 2019, but during the inquiry Mr Cox said he was visited at his Shoebury home by two Thurrock Council officers working on behalf of Southend Council.

He claims they ordered him to go with them for questioning at the Freshwharf Custody Suite in Barking.

A case alleging false imprisonment, assault and trespass, was due to be heard at Southend County Court on Tuesday, but district Judge Molineaux declined to hear the case saying it merited a day-long trial because of the “important and complex” issues raised involving a public body.

Thurrock Council has insisted Mr Cox “was not arrested, unlawfully or otherwise”.

Mr Cox said: “Residents expect their elected representatives to speak out on issues on their behalf. I was in this case pursued by Southend Council’s counter fraud team, which was outsourced to Thurrock at this time because of my views in an attempt to silence me.

“This, for me, is about the right of elected representatives having freedom of speech and to champion causes on residents’ behalf without interference from council officers.”

Thurrock Council was contracted to provide Southend Council with counter-fraud services but set up its own counter-fraud team in October 2019.

A spokesman for Thurrock Council said: “Mr Cox was subject to a criminal investigation undertaken by Thurrock Council. A claim has now been brought against the council alleging unlawful arrest. Mr Cox was not arrested, unlawfully or otherwise.

“We cannot comment further save to say the claim is robustly denied and Thurrock Council will await the decision of the court after the trial on a date to be confirmed.”

A new hearing is set to be heard at the first available court date after December 1 at Chelmsford County Court.
Southend Council was approached to comment.


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