Page last updated at 00:13 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Labour paid sex offender for work

Tim Russo
Russo helped the Labour Party during the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections

The Labour Party paid a sex offender convicted in the United States more than 2,500 to help it with its 2005 election campaign, the BBC has learned.

Activist Tim Russo, 41, was a visits co-ordinator in the East Midlands but did not have a UK work visa.

The Labour Party said it was unaware of Russo's past. It said it had not hired him but only paid expenses.

Russo was convicted in 2002 of trying to arrange sex with someone he thought was a 13-year-old boy.

The person he met online was in fact an FBI officer investigating internet paedophiles.

Russo had sent him pornography and was eventually found guilty of importuning (harassment) and attempting to disseminate matter harmful to juveniles. He was sentenced to a community service order and a year on probation by a county court in Cleveland, Ohio.


If we had known of this conviction then the offer of his help would have been refused

Labour Party statement

Russo told the BBC's Inside Out East Midlands programme that he had since worked to rehabilitate himself.

His work involved arranging visits to the region for senior Labour party figures, including the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

When asked by the BBC if he thought it was incredible that a sex offender was arranging campaign visits for the British Home Secretary, Russo said: "At the back of my mind was, 'God, I hope nobody find out about this'."

In a statement the Labour Party said neither the party nor any MPs were aware of any convictions involving Russo at the time, "and if we had known of this conviction then the offer of his help would have been refused".

'Criminal convictions'

Spending declared by the East Midlands Labour Party after the 2005 campaign revealed that Russo received 2,560 from the party for his "consultancy services", despite having neither a work permit or a work entry visa.

Russo also helped the Labour Party in two earlier general election campaigns in 1997 and 2001.

Ghuffar Usman, a Nottingham solicitor specialising in immigration cases, said he believed Labour had acted illegally.

"They should have applied for a work permit in the first place, having secured a work permit, then Mr Russo would have been free to apply for a visa allowing him to come to the UK to undertake work in accordance with that work permit for the Labour Party."

I am not in the business of lying about this
Tim Russo

He also believes the visa application process could have revealed Russo's convictions and prevented his entry to the UK.

"On the visa application form he would have been required to disclose any criminal convictions, including motoring offences. That would have flagged up his previous convictions."

Russo said he would have declared the convictions if asked.

He said: "I would have - I am not in the business of lying about this."

The Labour Party said: "The Labour Party, especially at election times, along with all other major political parties, have volunteers helping in campaigns and volunteering their consultancy services. Sometimes reasonable expenses are provided in these cases.

"The Labour Party had taken legal advice and the party's view is that in Mr Russo's case and on the separate issue of paid consultants the party has always acted within the law. Any suggestion otherwise is entirely false."

Defeated Conservative candidate Anna Soubry, who ran in the 2005 campaign in the Gedling constituency, said Labour's action has sent out the wrong message to voters.

She said: "You can't ask and tell people to abide by rules, regulations and laws if you don't actually abide by those laws, rules and regulations yourself. Otherwise it looks hypocritical and indeed it could be argued that it is hypocritical."

Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
2005: Historic third term for Labour
20 Sep 07 |  past_elections

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific