Council leader 'intimidated witnesses' claim court documents

Lancashire County Council is at the centre of a long-running enquiry
Lancashire County Council is at the centre of a long-running enquiry

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver was involved in activity "clearly designed to intimidate, belittle and undermine" witnesses in the long-running One Connect enquiry, newly published court documents reveal.

A published judgement from the High Court has shone a light on the investigation into the conduct of Councillor Driver and three others - former County Hall chief executive Phil Halsall, David McElhinney (chief executive of the now defunct One Connect) and Ged Fitzgerald, the former Lancashire County Council chief executive.

All four were arrested in May last year on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation. Since then they have been rebailed several times, but none of them have been charged with any offence.

Ged Fitzgerald, the former LCC chief executive who is now chief executive at Liverpool Council, took legal action against Lancashire Police, claiming that the raid on his home was unlawful.

The High Court has now rejected his application.

The judgement documents show that Judge Robert Altham at Preston Crown Court "was persuaded that there was ample evidence of this offence having been committed".

It adds: “He concluded from this that it indicated that ‘Mr Driver is in cahoots with the others, providing not only information but also providing challenge to people who can cause difficulties in the course of this investigation’.”

The original police application for the warrants, upheld by the High Court, said: “Evidence has now been gathered which shows that between 2013 and 2015, Mr Driver in collusion with Philip Halsall, Mr David McElhinney and Gerard Fitzgerald, was involved in activity directed toward a number of principal witnesses which was clearly designed to intimidate, belittle and undermine them both professionally and, crucially, as witnesses in the investigation.”

All four of the men have denied any wrongdoing.