EXCLUSIVE: Tory Mayor’s Facebook group that encourages criminal damage only had a rule forbidding illegal behaviour added after he was approached by the media. By STEVEN DOWNES
A Labour MP has called on Croydon Mayor Jason Perry to close down his Facebook group which has been celebrating and offering implicit encouragement to vandals who have been causing hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage to ULEZ cameras.
And Inside Croydon can reveal proof that Perry, Croydon’s £84,000 per year part-time Tory Mayor, has been deliberately dissembling over the rules for the Facebook group, where a disclaimer to disallow the encouragement of illegal activity was only added after he was approached by Private Eye magazine for comment.
The BBC and Evening Standard have today followed up Inside Croydon’s exclusive report, which revealed that the Conservative government’s policing minister Chris Philp is a member of the group, “Croydon say no to ULEZ expansion”.
Mayor Perry is listed as group admin and “expert”, together with other Tory councillors and party employees.
ULEZ, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, was extended to cover most of Greater London, including Croydon, last month. Drivers of non-compliant vehicles face fines of £12.50 per day for driving in the zone, although TfL figures suggest that 9-in-10 vehicles registered within the zone comply with its emissions rules.
That has not stopped self-appointed vigilantes running amok, though. Police figures suggest that at least 500 of the ULEZ enforcement cameras – reckoned to cost around £50,000 each – have suffered damage or vandalism.
Philp, the MP for Croydon South, is among almost 2,000 members of the Facebook group that devotes most of its activities to platforming the criminal damage inflicted on the CCTV cameras and other public infrastructure installed for the Ultra Low Emission Zone.
Other members of Perry and Philp’s group have repeatedly shown themselves to be supporters of law-breaking and criminal damage.
They have posted photographs of traffic lights and lampposts which have been bent over or cut in two, and cameras which have had their lenses covered with spray paint, all in an effort by the vandals to prevent them performing the legal function of monitoring passing vehicles.
“Abuse is mandatory” was one widely liked comment about public abuse to TfL and their contractors installing ULEZ equipment, or repairing it.
Today, Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP for Brent North, told the BBC that the implicit encouragement of vigilante action by the pair of Croydon Conservatives was “deeply concerning”.
Gardiner said, “The police minister and Mayor of Croydon should immediately shut down this Facebook group, apologise, and make clear they condemn any criminal activity or damage.”
Following the publication of Inside Croydon’s report last week, a spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “People are of course entitled to show their opposition to policies peacefully and lawfully.
“But causing or promoting criminal damage is never acceptable.
“All incidents of ULEZ camera vandalism are reported to the police for investigation, arrests have been made and the Met and TfL are using new methods to catch those responsible.”
According to Olga Fitzroy, who contested Philp’s Croydon South seat for Labour at the 2019 General Election, the Tory minister has form when it comes to failing to do the right thing.
“I remember doing a hustings in a mosque with Chris in 2019 where he refused to condemn Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic ‘letterboxes’ comments about women in Islamic dress,” Fitzroy tweeted today.
“This comes as no surprise to me… Too weak stand up for what’s right.”
Despite Perry and his co-admins blocking the editor of Inside Croydon from accessing their secretive Facebook group, journalists from this website have continued to monitor the output from this particular online cesspit, screengrabbing a wide range of incriminating material.
There has been no noticeable change in its content over the past week or so, since Philp and Perry were exposed both on this website and in the pages of Private Eye.
Indeed, additional posts celebrating criminal damage have appeared on the Facebook group, with no reproach from the policing minister or the Croydon Mayor and his “team” of admins.
Philp went on record to say he completely condemns law-breaking. It’s just that when he encounters it, on a Facebook group of which he is a member, he doesn’t do anything about it. Philp has never said that he has reported any of the criminal acts celebrated on Facebook to the Metropolitan Police.
Perry, too, has trotted out a line about condemning criminal acts, but again, has done little or nothing to act when confronted by them in a social media group that he administers.
Perry has issued a quote to multiple media outlets in which he claimed that, “The rules for the Facebook group clearly say that encouraging illegal activity is not allowed.”
But Inside Croydon journalists screengrabbed the group’s rules section as they appeared before the Croydon Mayor was first approached by Private Eye.
The rules then said nothing to discourage illegal activity.
Even in the fortnight or so since Perry had someone more technically competent than himself add the caveat to cover his own arse, there’s been no indication that the Croydon Mayor or any of his devoted gofers have done anything to enforce their afterthought rule addition.
Read more: Tory minister is member of online group that celebrates vandals
Read more: Perry slow to stop cars parking in town centre pedestrian zone
Read more: Mayor Perry accepted hundreds of pounds of gifts in first year
Read more: Ignore ULEZ scare stories – it will reduce traffic and save lives
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