Investigation Against MLA Trevor Clarke by the Commissioner for Standards to the Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee
Information Standards Freedom of Information Response
Our Ref: FoI 26-21
20 July 2021
Freedom of Information Act 2000
I can confirm that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (Assembly Commission) holds information relevant to your request of 30 June 2021. In your request you asked for the following information:
“Under the Freedom of Information Act, I would like to request a copy of documents presented by the Commissioner for Standards to the NI Assembly Standards and Privileges Committee.
Please disclose the following:
- A copy of all documents or reports (redacted where appropriate if necessary) presented by the Commissioner for Standards to the Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee in relation to her investigation against MLA Trevor Clarke. This probe concluded in May this year by way of rectification procedure in which Mr Clarke wrote an apology to the committee:
Please find attached at Appendix A (separate), the information held by the Assembly Commission in relation to this request. Please note that contact details of the complainant and a fellow constituent have been redacted from the information provided as this information is personal data, as defined section 3(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018. Disclosure of this personal data would breach the first data protection principle. The first data protection principle requires that personal data is processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject (Article 5 UK General Data Protection Regulations). This information is therefore exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. No other information has been redacted.
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If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above.
Standards & Privileges Committee
4 May 2021
Dear [information redacted]
COMPLAINT BY [information redacted] AGAINST TREVOR CLARKE MLA
In accordance with paragraph 9.3 of the General Procedures Direction, I write to advise the Committee that I have decided the above complaint may be resolved through the rectification process.
The complaint relates to Mr Clarke’s failure to declare his role with Versatile Consultancy when [information redacted] attended his constituency office on 5th April 2019 seeking advice in relation to a retrospective planning application by his neighbour, [information redacted]. On that day, Mr Clarke informed [information redacted] that he was unable to assist him because he was already assisting the applicant, but according to [information redacted] he did not declare his association with Versatile Consultancy or that he was representing [information redacted] in his capacity as a consultant with Versatile Consultancy.
Having considered [information redacted] complaint through the investigation process, including interviews with both [information redacted] and Mr Clarke, I believe that Mr Clarke inadvertently failed to declare an interest in Versatile Consultancy when he should have done so. I am satisfied that during his meeting with [information redacted] on 5 April 2019, where he sought Mr Clarke’s advice on the retrospective planning application, Mr Clarke failed to declare his role as a consultant with Versatile Consultancy to [information redacted]. Mr Clarke said at interview that he thought he had declared the interest and couldn’t see any reason why he would not have declared it, as he had regularly made a point of declaring the interest and it was also on the register at that time.
While the delay in the time taken to hear this complaint has not been ideal and may have led to Mr Clarke’s lack of detailed recollection on the matter, I am content on the balance of probabilities that [information redacted] recollection and his certainty that Mr Clarke did not declare the interest is an accurate account.
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mr Clarke admitted to being late in registering his interest in Versatile Consultancy, which again I am content was inadvertent. He explained at interview that he had assumed the register would reflect the previous year’s register after his three month break when he had lost his seat and then took it up again.
In relation to[information redacted] allegation that Mr Clarke may have provided information from their meeting on 5 April 2019 to [information redacted], I have not received any evidence to substantiate this allegation.
In relation to Mr Clarke’s letter to the Commissioner’s Office dated 2 August 2019 where he self-refers on the same matter of this complaint (at the time highlighted in the media and which prompted [information redacted] complaint in relation to his failure to declare his role as a consultant for Versatile), it is encompassed within my consideration of this complaint. In relation to both the self-referral and [information redacted] complaint, I am content from the facts established in my investigation that both Mr Clarke’s failure to declare his interest to [information redacted] and his failure to register the interests on time were inadvertent.
For these reasons, I am satisfied that rectification is the best resolution because:
1) The interest in Versatile Consultancy should have been declared to [information redacted].
2) The failure to declare the interest was inadvertent.
3) The failure to register the interest on time was inadvertent.
Mr Clarke acknowledges his inadvertent failure to declare an interest and his failure to register the interest on time and has undertaken to apologise to the Committee for Standards and Privileges and the Assembly in writing.
Therefore, I recommend the rectification process to the Committee in this case.
Dr Melissa McCullough
Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards