Ex-councillor and local authority in row over ‘child risk’ images

By Miles Davis
BBC News Online

  • Published
Alex Folkes
Image caption,
"Indecent images of children" were found on a Alex Folkes' computer, according to a leaked document

A council issued a warning to schools when it learned indecent images of children had once been found on a councillor's computer, a leaked email suggests.

The email claims to set out information concerning the 2006 arrest of Cornwall Council member Alex Folkes.

After receiving the information last year, the authority warned Mr Folkes was a "risk to children".

Mr Folkes said he has confirmation that "no images were found".

An independent review into the handling of the issue found the council acted in the interest of children but admitted it was a stressful time for Mr Folkes.

It says the issue was badly handled when it was first drawn to the attention of the council in 2010 and again in 2013.

Mr Folkes dismissed the report as "partial and factually inaccurate in a number of key respects".

"The report ignores many key issues and seeks to create scapegoats rather than deal with endemic problems at the authority.

"It is regrettable that this report did not address the culture of leaks within the council. Such a culture starts at the top," he said.

Cloned card

He claims his bank card was cloned and used to access a site containing indecent images of children.

The leaked email, marked as strictly confidential and seen by the BBC, appears to have been sent by council chief executive Andrew Kerr to Mr Folkes on 20 November 2014.

It concerns a Metropolitan Police investigation in 2006 into the possible accessing by Mr Folkes of indecent images of children.

The BBC has sent the email, in which a series of claims are made against Mr Folkes, to the councillor. He declined to say whether he had received the original document in November.

Neither Cornwall Council nor Devon and Cornwall Police would comment on the document.

However, a source has confirmed to the BBC the leaked email was sent to Mr Folkes on 20 November.

Image caption,
The leaked email says that "indecent images" of children were found on Alex Folkes' computer

Mr Folkes resigned from a cabinet position last November when the council sent a letter to schools and youth organisations stating he was "a potential risk" to children. Mr Folkes resigned from the Liberal Democrat group but remains as member for Launceston Central.

The reason he was identified as a "potential risk" has never been publicly disclosed.

But the leaked document includes a summary of a minuted telephone discussion between the Metropolitan Police and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) group.

The LADO, made up of representatives from Cornwall Council and Devon and Cornwall Police, examines cases where there is a concern that someone working with children may pose a risk.

The leaked document states Mr Folkes was arrested in February 2006 as part of a Metropolitan Police child abuse investigation. He was released without charge.

It states: "Computer equipment was seized and examined and a number of indecent images of children were found in the unallocated cluster of the computer."

It said no charges were brought "due to the location of where the images were found in the computer".

The email said more than 100 indecent images of children had been found on the machine.

Timeline of events

  • 2006 - Mr Folkes arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of incitement to distribute indecent images and released with no further action taken
  • June 2009 - Mr Folkes elected as Liberal Democrat member for Launceston Central
  • May 2013 - Mr Folkes re-elected as councillor for Launceston and given cabinet position as head of finance and resources
  • 4 November 2014 - Mr Folkes resigns from the cabinet citing "personal issues"
  • 20 November 2014 - Cornwall Council confirms it wrote to all schools warning of "potential risk" to children posed by Mr Folkes. Mr Folkes says his card had been cloned, he had been cleared by police and had "never viewed any such images"
  • 24 November 2014 - Cornwall Council announces inquiry into its handling of allegations against Mr Folkes
  • 27 January 2015 - Cornwall Council reaffirms its position claiming that Mr Folkes is a "serious and enduring risk" to children. Mr Folkes issues a rebuttal claiming he has provided evidence "which quite clearly proves my innocence"

Mr Folkes has condemned the actions of Cornwall Council as a "secret kangaroo court". He said the claims made in the leaked email were "desperate" and were "already disproved".

He said on his blog he has been given "20 pages" of information from the Metropolitan Police. He would not release that information to the BBC but pointed to a line which said his "computer was sent off for analysis and the images on it could not be found".

Mr Folkes told the BBC: "The Metropolitan Police have confirmed in writing that no images were found on my computer.

"I have shown that, at a time when the person who accessed the illegal site did so from overseas, I was in the UK. I have shown that my card was used fraudulently. Claims to the contrary are therefore entirely false."

Mr Folkes called on the council to "put an end to this culture of leaks, smears and harassment".

He said: "It is time they insisted on a fair process which ensures that all claims made about me are subject to full and rigorous challenge - including by myself."

Devon and Cornwall Police have confirmed they are not investigating any allegations against Mr Folkes.

The Met Police declined to comment on Mr Folkes' claims.

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