Police receive complaint about Newton after BBC allegations
POLICE have received a complaint alleging that Assembly Speaker Robin Newton broke the law by not declaring an interest in Charter NI.
It is understood that a member of the public lodged the complaint about the East Belfast MLA in the wake of allegations contained in a BBC programme on Tuesday.
The PSNI yesterday didn’t name Mr Newton, but confirmed that “a complaint has been received following the Spotlight programme and this is currently being reviewed”.
The DUP politician denies claims that he misled the Assembly about the true nature of his role in the UDA-linked charity.
The Speaker has refused to resign from his £87,500 a year job, but says he won’t run again if the Assembly returns.
Every political party in Stormont bar the DUP has called on him to step aside. Arlene Foster has remained silent on the issue.
Spotlight reported that when Mr Newton blocked an urgent question on the awarding of public funds to the controversial charity last autumn, he hadn’t revealed his key role as an adviser to the group.
The BBC obtained internal Charter NI papers, including copies of its board minutes, which it said proved that Mr Newton had “an important role in helping to run Charter NI, including attending full board meetings from mid-2012”.
Sinn Fein yesterday lodged a complaint about the allegations that Mr Newton misled the Assembly.
West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said: “We are also seeking confirmation as to whether he was in breach of the Section 43 NI Act applicable to MLAs on declaration of interests.
“We believe that Robin Newton’s position as Speaker is completely untenable in light of the serious allegations in a BBC Spotlight programme and that he should resign with immediate effect. The public demand integrity in government and the Speaker should be above reproach and independently accountable to the political institutions.”
Mr Newton sat on a Social Investment Fund (SIF) steering group that awarded Charter NI a £1.7m contract.
The charity’s chief executive is UDA boss Dee Stitt. His north Down gang has been linked to drug dealing, racketeering and intimidation.
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon called for key documentation from SIF steering groups to be published by the head of the Civil Service.
She said that in order to address concerns about SIF processes, steering group minutes and conflict of interest declarations should be published.
“Much of the attention following this week’s Spotlight programme has rightly fallen on Robin Newton. His failure to declare the full extent of his involvement with Charter NI is a matter of serious concern,” she stated.
“But the critical flaws at the heart of the Social Investment Fund relate to the complete failure to manage perceived conflicts of interest where they arise.
“It defies belief that the system allowed steering groups, comprised of political representatives and community group members, to allocate significant sums of public money to groups which their members were connected with. That creates suspicion.”
Ms Mallon said that the only way to address the problem was by total transparency.
“That can be achieved if the minutes of steering group meetings and full conflict of interest declarations are made public. I made that call in December of last year. It was ignored then. It cannot be ignored now,” she said.
“I will be writing to the head of the Civil Service requesting that this documentation, which rests with the Executive Office, is published in the interests of transparency, accountability and public confidence in the political institutions.”
Politicians have urged Assembly Speaker Robin Newton to stand down