Tory MP 'amazed' by how many knew of fraud probe, court hears

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A Conservative MP was "amazed" by how many people knew he was being investigated over fraud allegations after a police boss disclosed confidential information to his colleagues, a court has heard.

Adam Simmonds, 40, is accused of discussing the probe with politicians including MPs within the Tory party, using information from briefings in his role as Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner (PCC).

Peter Bone said he was assured by Northamptonshire police officers the matter was being dealt with confidentially after his home was searched in March 2013.

But the MP for Wellingborough soon found the "rumour mill" locally was "in full swing" about allegations against him and his wife Jeanette, relating to the payment of fees for the care of an elderly relative, jurors were told.

"I was amazed to find out how many did know. Of course, I was not aware of all of them at that time," he said, giving evidence at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday.

"One of the key moments was when Thomas Pursglove, now the MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, told me that he had been told by a county councillor quite considerable detail about the investigation, and that was a complete surprise."

He said of Simmonds, who had previously worked for Northamptonshire County Council: "I have known him a long time and I think he was an excellent PCC."

Mr Bone also said he did not believe Simmonds was responsible for leaking information that later appeared in a string of articles in The Times.

But he explained there was a tension between "liking intensely" Simmonds and the evidence that had brought him to court.

"I don't think for one minute it was malicious," he said.

But asked by prosecutor Christopher Foulkes if he was upset by the alleged unlawful sharing of information, Mr Bone replied: "I couldn't understand how the PCC's office could have passed that information on to anyone else."

Mr Bone described the allegations against him as "completely bogus and made up" and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced it would not bring any charges against him or his wife in March 2014.

Simmonds, from Leicester, denies unlawfully obtaining or disclosing personal data between May 1 2013 and May 1 2014 and the trial continues on Wednesday.

The court has heard Simmonds was updated on the investigation into Mr Bone in emails sent between Northamptonshire police chief constable Adrian Lee and his deputy Martin Jelley.

Simmonds is alleged to have disclosed the information in conversations with Conservative politicians Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, MP for Daventry Chris Heaton-Harris, Paul Bell and David Mackintosh.

Mr Lee said he discussed the issue of confidentiality with Simmonds days or weeks after he was elected as a Conservative PCC in 2012.

"Having made that statement at the beginning and set the ground rules we then shared information and I was pleased to see there was never an incident, except the one before the court, of anything being disseminated without my permission," he told jurors.

But he said he had not expected Simmonds to disclose information about the investigation into Mr Bone, except to senior colleagues within the office of the PCC.

"I'm very clear I didn't give permission and permission was never sought," he said.

Mr Bone made a formal complaint about Simmonds, who was charged following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Mark Harries, defending, has said Simmonds does not dispute the facts he received information by email and had brief conversations about the investigation.

He told jurors if they find his client did disclose personal data without consent, he will convince them he acted with the reasonable belief he had the right to do so, acted in reasonable belief he had the consent of the chief constable, or did so in the public interest.