Oh Steve Uncles, what have you done?

Putting other people’s work on your website seems to be a feature of the no-hope candidates in this election. First, we had Fergus Wilson and the curious case of those photographs.

Now, it appears, English Democrat Steve Uncles has also been indulging in a little cutting-and-pasting. One of these is quite funny, but the other really isn’t funny at all.

First, a little light relief. On April 16th an article appeared on Uncles’ official website: The wasted years of Anne Barnes – Kent Police Commissioner by Adam Hignett. A very interesting article is is too: it doesn’t actually mention Uncles at all. It could almost have been written by a professional journalist.

Actually, it was written by a professional journalist: the whole article has been lifted from the Times of Tunbridge Wells (here’s the article on their website: Uncles appears to have taken it from a digital edition). I asked the newspaper whether they’d given Uncles permission to reproduce it, and their response was rather interesting:

Oh. And, looking closer at the image they kindly supplied, we see that Uncles has made one change to the article. This is from the original:

frontrunner1

and this is from his reproduction:

frontrunner2.PNG

That’s right, he’s crudely photoshopped his own face into it, describing himself as the frontrunner: remember, that’s into an article that doesn’t mention him at all. Shameless.

Perhaps spurred on, Uncles went in for a bit more cutting-and-pasting: and here the story gets a lot darker.

On April 20th the media reported an alleged gang-rape at Bluewater shopping centre: here’s Kent Online’s report.  The same day, Uncles reproduced that article on his website: here it is. This time, he didn’t just paste a picture in: he changed the words in the article to make a political point. He changed the headline from this:

Young woman ‘gang raped’ at Bluewater shopping centre 

to this:

Seven Muslim Men rape Young Woman in Bluewater Carpark in Kent

…and he made other changes to the body of the article to claim the attack was carried out by seven Muslim men. The original article makes no reference to the alleged attackers’ religion at all. So Uncles has – to put it mildly – misrepresented a shocking and tragic situation in order to make a disgraceful political point.

None of the men are Muslim: Kent Police have released a statement confirming it:

Due to the widespread attention this incident has received, investigating officers can confirm that all the 11 men who were arrested are whie, English and non-Muslim.

Rather desperately, Uncles has gone into attack mode, throwing accusations at everyone who has called him out, starting with accusing the Police of lying:

Well, exactly. Why would they lie? They’ve nothing to gain from doing so, and everything to lose: if and when the suspects were charged it would become obvious. I submit that we can discount the possibility that the Police are being untruthful.

Then he went into conspiracy mode, claiming to see something sinister in reports of the incident emerging some weeks after it took place:

In fact there’s nothing to suggest that the Police have suppressed news on it at all: we don’t know when the offence was reported to them. Their statement says that officers “promptly identified the suspects and 11 arrests were made” which suggests that it wasn’t reported to them for some time. It’s not unusual for victims of this kind of offence not to come forward for some time, and understandably so: many never feel able to come forward at all. But even if the Police have known about it for some time, there may be very good reasons for not releasing information about it immediately: sometimes it’s important not to tip suspects off.

Next, Uncles demands that Police release CCTV of the event:

Yes, that’s right: he demands Police release CCTV footage of a woman being raped. That’s not going to happen, and he knows it: the Police are not in the business of releasing that kind of thing to make political points, either for him or against him, and it may well not be their property to release. And not only could releasing too much evidence at this stage jeopardise the suspects’ right to a fair trial, but it could lead to the identification of the victim: something that is absolutely forbidden.

Uncles tried to draw comparison with grooming incidents in Rotherham, making the same response fifteen times, even when it didn’t make much sense:

Now, what happened in South Yorkshire was shocking and unacceptable. But the circumstances were really quite different, and a lot has happened since then. There’s no reason to suppose the Police are covering up this incident, for the reasons we’ve discussed again. This is just an attempt to distract us from Uncles being caught out.

Finally, Uncles has posted all of these claims on his website, repeating his bizarre claim that the Police are lying, and claiming that they are under instructions to cover these matters up. He posts a copy of information received from Bedfordshire Police under the Freedom of Information Act which he says contain these instructions: you can read them for yourself on his website, and I’ll leave you to make up your own mind whether you agree; but to me they look like a set of guidelines for Police Officers to exercise some sensitivity when going into Muslim households – certainly there are no instructions to lie.

Somewhere out there, a young woman has gone through the most awful ordeal, and now has to endure the double agony of being cynically exploited for political gain. It is disgraceful for anyone to seek to use her suffering to incite fear and hatred of others.

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Fergus Wilson: the final Act.

Fergus Wilson’s bid to be elected Kent Police and Crime Commissioner finally came to an end in Court 18 of the Royal Courts of Justice today when his application for Judicial Review of the Returning Officer’s decision to exclude him from the ballot paper was dismissed.

Wilson was also ordered to pay £20,000 towards the Returning Officer’s costs in defending the action which, as we have seen, always seemed doomed to failure.

Good. Our faith in British Justice is restored.

Fergus Wilson – my complaint to the Returning Officer

It is reported today that Fergus Wilson has gone ahead with his application for Judicial Review of the Returning Officer’s decision to reject his nomination. As we have seen, his application seems doomed to fail: what he really wants is an injunction to protect himself from the consequences of his own incompetence.

More importantly, it is an affront to the democratic process that Mr Wilson has gone to law to seek to stand in an election from which his assault conviction specifically disqualifies him. I consider it proper, therefore, to report him to the Returning Officer for the Corrupt Practice of making a false declaration that he is not disqualified from standing. The text of my complaint is set out below.

Mr Nadeem Aziz

Police Area Returning Officer for Kent

 

Dear Mr Aziz,

Police and Crime Commissioner Election – Candidacy of Mr Fergus Glen Wilson

I see from the Statement of Persons Nominated that Mr Fergus Wilson submitted a nomination as a candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner election. It follows that Mr Wilson must have signed a Candidate’s Consent to Nomination.

As you know it is a Corrupt Practice for a candidate to make a false statement as to his eligibility to stand (contrary to the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2012). Section 66(3)(c) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 disqualifies from holding the office of PCC any person who has been convicted of an imprisonable offence, regardless of whether that person was actually imprisoned. An imprisonable offence is defined as an offence for which a person over the age of 18 could have been imprisoned, and is not limited to terms of imprisonment over a certain length. Further, a candidate is to be considered as having been convicted if the time ordinarily allowed for appeal has passed and no appeal has been made, or if an appeal is made and has been dismissed.

On or about 12th April 2014 Mr Wilson was convicted at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court of Common Assault, having assaulted a Mr Daniel Wells. An appeal against that conviction was dismissed at Canterbury Crown Court in August of that year. The maximum penalty for Common Assault is six months imprisonment: see the Criminal Justice Act 1988, s.39. It follows that it is an imprisonable offence as defined by the 2011 Act, and that conviction for that offence disqualifies Mr Wilson from holding the office of Police and Crime Commissioner.

Mr Wilson must be aware of his conviction as he has appealed against it. Given that an appeal has been made and been dismissed, Mr Wilson is to be considered as having been convicted. Media reports suggest that Mr Wilson intends to make, or has already made, an application for permission to make a further appeal. At best Mr Wilson has made an application for leave to make a further appeal, far out of time. There is no provision in the Act for such an application to render a disqualified candidate temporarily qualified.

It follows that Mr Wilson’s declaration that he was not disqualified was false, and that in making it he committed a Corrupt Practice contrary to the 2012 rules.

I understand that Mr Wilson’s nomination was rejected by you on other grounds, but nevertheless the offence was complete when he made the declaration. Mr Wilson has applied for leave to appeal for judicial review of your decision; however unlikely he is to succeed it is an affront to the democratic process that he has chosen to do so. Parliament has specifically required candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner to uphold the highest standards of probity.

I consider it to be my civic duty, therefore, to report Mr Wilson to you for this offence, and ask you to pass my report onto the Police for investigation.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Patience

Can Fergus Wilson stand after all?

The bizarre saga of Fergus Wilson’s attempts to stand for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner have taken another twist this evening as Wilson claims he will be seeking an injunction  to allow him to appeal against the decision that he is ineligible to stand.

Is this possible?

First, it appears there were two problems with Wilson’s nomination. The reasons given by the Returning Officer were as follows:

Nomination Invalid as the papers were not delivered as required by law and were not subscribed as required by law.

It is not clear what these issues were exactly, but it appears there is a problem with the delivery of the papers (the law says, for example, that the papers can only be delivered by the candidate or the agent), and also a problem with the subscribers – nominations for PCC have to be subscribed by 100 electors.

Returning Officers are required to apply the law strictly, and rightly so. If Wilson’s nomination was not correctly delivered, and if it was not subscribed to 100 electors, then it appears that is the end of the matter.

And if the Returning Officer has made an error, then the proper course of action appears to be for the election to go ahead, and for Wilson to then challenge the result by way of an Election Petition. In the case of Regina (De Beer and Others) -v- Balabanoff, Returning Officer for the London Borough of Harrow the High Court refused leave to appeal for judicial review to a candidate in similar candidates, holding that the Returning Officer was right to act strictly within the rules. As to the possibility of judicial review, in that case Mr Justice Scott Baker commented:

“It has not been argued before me that the court cannot interfere by way of judicial review, although it is fair to say that neither party was aware of any case where there has been a successful application for judicial review against a returning officer.
In my judgment, although judicial review does lie, this is an area in which the courts should be extremely slow to interfere with the decision of a returning officer. No doubt where a returning officer has plainly acted unlawfully relief will lie. But ordinarily returning officers should be left to conduct the election process as provided by Parliament.”

So a candidate has a mountain to climb if he wants the courts to intervene.

Even worse for Wilson is the Court of Appeal case of Begum and Others -v- Returning Officer for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In that case, candidates (for the Respect Party in this instance) had their nomination papers rejected because they had used the wrong electoral numbers – having referred to an out of date electoral register. The High Court ordered the election suspended so their case could be considered, but the Court of Appeal ruled that decision was wrong: the election should go ahead as planned. It would be, they ruled “a rare case indeed” in which the courts would interfere in an election before it took place:

In principle, elections should be contested by those who have been properly nominated in accordance with the rules. Moreover local elections should, if at all possible, all take place on the day appointed

The Court of Appeal case is, of course, binding on the High Court if it hears Wilson’s case. It seems (unless the Returning Officer has made a really catastrophic and obvious error) that he has reached the end of the road.

Good.

Update 07/04 23:15 – Kent Messenger Group Political Editor has reported further on the errors in Wilson’s nomination: 

Both of these appear fatal to his ambitions. The 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order requires the nomination papers to be submitted in person, and the electoral number of every person subscribing must be shown.

Kent PCC election – the next few days.

Nominations for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections close at 4pm this Thursday (April 7th). The Police Area Returning Officer will publish a Statement of Persons Nominated shortly afterwards: for Kent the Statutory Notices are being posted here. At the latest this must be published by 4pm on Friday.

Within the next few days, therefore, we will know for certain who the candidates for Kent PCC are: it is quite possible that one or more of the declared candidates will choose not to stand, or a candidate’s nomination papers may be rejected. This isn’t all that unusual: the English Democrats’ candidate for London Mayor, Winston McKenzie had his nomination rejected because of a defect with his paperwork. Equally, there may be candidates we don’t yet know of.

However – and this is important – the Returning Officer can only reject a nomination (and other candidates can only object) on certain, limited grounds: see the Electoral Commission’s guidance on the process. For example, Winston McKenzie’s nomination was rejected because some signatures were duplicated. These grounds are things the Returning Officer can be expected to tell from the paperwork in front of him. A candidate’s criminal convictions are not among those things. If a candidate is under a disqualification, it has to be dealt with under a separate judicial process.

So, whatever a certain candidate may tell you at the end of this week, the fact that his nomination has been accepted, and his name appears on the ballot paper, does not mean that he is not disqualified. If he chooses to stand, he will have to face the legal consequences later.

Oh Fergus Wilson, what have you done?

So, I make no apologies for blogging again about Kent PCC candidate Fergus Wilson. Regular readers (there must be at least one of you out there) will be aware that Wilson has been convicted of common assault, which disqualifies him from being elected. His plan to appeal – long out of time – so that he can stand appears, at best, hopeless.

For the past few months Kent residents have been entertained by Wilson’s bizarre weekly adverts, in which he has pledged, amongst other things, to take command of the Royal Navy to close the English Channel to migrants.

Until last week. Last week, Wilson published an apparently sensible manifesto in which he promised, as well as putting Kent Police into shirts and ties, expert reviews of policing and the establishment of citizens panels to advise him and the Borough Commanders (which we don’t actually have in Kent, but never mind). None of his usual anti-immigrant ranting, none of his apparent obsession with armed police or Operation Stack.

What is behind his apparent change of heart? Well, Fergus has a new website which offers us a clue. It is promoted by one David Cooper, who appears to be this David Cooper, a retired Police Officer and former lawyer who has previously appointed himself “Shadow Police and Crime Commissioner.”

I wonder who will be carrying out all those expert reviews?

As well as a pen-portrait of Wilson, and his manifesto, there is as section on domestic abuse. And here it gets murkier. Very much murkier indeed.

Now let’s be clear: it’s a serious issue which demands to be taken seriously. It is laudable for anyone in public life to try to deal with it. But whether a man convicted of an offence of violence, who refuses to face up to that offence, is the right person to lead that campaign is doubtful to say the least. And the sincerity with which he approaches this issue must be called into question by the effort he has put into his campaigning on it. He presents research, backed up with impressive statistics. He refers to this as “the research that I have done.”

Except it’s not his at all. All of his tables of statistics have apparently been taken, without attribution, from the Kent and Medway Domestic Abuse Strategy.

It gets worse. To illustrate the problem Wilson (or Cooper, it is unclear who is driving this strategy) has published a number of photographs, apparently of domestic abuse victims, he says “with the consent of the respective women.” Like this woman:

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Except that’s not a victim of domestic abuse. That’s Anne Marie Duff, photographed by the brilliant Rankin, as part of a genuine campaign against domestic violence. Again, used

Many of the other images are equally problematic. There are a few more from the same campaign, another from Annie Liebovitz, there are a couple of apparently stock images, and a woman from Cincinatti (not in Kent, last time I looked) who appears to have shot her husband. None of these are attributed.

Oh dear. Oh dearie me.

UPDATE 30/03 17:30: Since this post appeared Rankin’s photographs, including the one shown above, have disappeared from the gallery. This may or may not be related to my having alerted Rankin to the use of his images. Annie Liebovitz’s image remains, as do the others which are unrelated to Kent. On the page about his project, Wilson refers to there being 24 images in the gallery: only 20 remain.

UPDATE 30/03 19:15: Wilson’s apparent Campaign Manager is a retired Police Officer. Former PCC candidate Rachel Rogers has reported compellingly on why we should be worried about the involvement of retired Police Officers with PCCs.

On Fergus Wilson (again) and that appeal

I promise that this blog won’t all be about everyone’s favourite comedy landlord Fergus Wilson; there are far more important things to say, like how we should build more bloody houses, or how Her Majesty’s Opposition has reduced itself to an irrelevance, or how the Government is rigging the system to make itself impregnable, or how we should build more bloody houses. Did I mention building more bloody houses?

However, I find myself moved to return to Fergus Wilson like a dog returning to its vomit, by today’s news that Wilson has instructed lawyers to appeal his conviction for assault, the conviction which, as we saw last time makes him ineligible to hold the post of Police and Crime Commissioner. Media reports suggest he has decided to appeal the conviction, or to launch a judicial review of it, or both, and that he has advice that this will enable him to stand, as his nomination will have to be accepted pending appeal.

At this point I think it important to say that I am not a lawyer, just a layman with an interest in the law.

The first point to note is that Wilson has already made an appeal against his conviction, to the Crown Court, and that appeal was dismissed. My understanding is that no further appeal of that kind against his conviction is now possible. However, it is possible to make an appeal to the High Court by way of a procedure known as “case stated.” An appeal of this kind must be made on the grounds that the conviction was “wrong in law or in excess of jurisdiction.” So, if the Magistrates’ Court were to convict someone of murder that would be in excess of jurisdiction because only the Crown Court can try an indictable offence like murder. However Wilson was convicted of common assault which is a summary offence, so there is no problem of jurisdiction.

We aren’t told what the grounds for appeal would be, but it is difficult to see what point of law might be involved. The facts of the case, as accepted by the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court, were that Wilson stormed into his victim’s office and punched him in the head. He denies this, but it is no longer possible to appeal on the grounds that the conviction was wrong. If A touches B without B’s consent then A is guilty of assault. The law on this point is clear.

It gets worse for him. The rules say that an appeal by case stated must be made within 21 days of the conviction (or in this case of the dismissal of the appeal to the Crown Court) and Wilson’s appeal was dismissed in August 2014. Being a few days outside the deadline may be one thing, and of course sometimes things come to light that were not clear at the time, but Wilson is well over a year out of time. It seems highly unlikely that Wilson would be given permission to appeal out of time, particularly if he raises a point he could have raised earlier.

As to judicial review, an application for permission to appeal for judicial review must be made as soon as possible, and in any event no later than three months after the decision to be reviewed. There is no chance of judicial review.

So, all of Wilson’s options to appeal seem to be futile. So, what then of his claim that his nomination would have to be accepted pending appeal? That is a little more complicated.

The relevant section of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act reads:

(b)a person is to be treated as having been convicted—

(i)on the expiry of the ordinary period allowed for an appeal or application in respect of the conviction, or

(ii)if an appeal or application is made in respect of the conviction, when the appeal or application is finally disposed of or abandoned or fails by reason of non-prosecution.

So, if the election had fallen in the time between Wilson’s conviction and the dismissal of his appeal by the Crown Court, he would not be treated as having been convicted because his appeal would not have finally been disposed of. The question is whether a further futile application would mean that he would be entitled to be treated as though be had not been convicted.

I think not. An appeal has been made and has been disposed of. He is to be treated as being convicted. A further application for permission to appeal out of time does not alter that fact, and to pretend that it does not only means reading words into the Act that simply are not there, it also means accepting that Parliament has passed a law that has no meaning at all. Any disqualified candidate would merely have to make an application for permission to appeal, no matter how bizarre or misconceived, just before submitting their nomination, and they would magically become qualified. Surely not.

Even if that were not so, it would still be the case that (in the highly unlikely event of his election) Wilson would become disqualified again when his appeal was dismissed. What would be the point of electing a PCC who is bound to be turfed out of office almost immediately?

Update 17/03/16: in this week’s press adverts, Wilson appears to suggest that his grounds for appeal will be that he was prosecuted while Jeremy Clarkson wasn’t even cautioned for an apparently more serious offence. This is just nonsense. On that basis, if the Police and the CPS decide not to prosecute one individual for an offence, it would be against the law for anyone to be convicted of that offence again. It does not even begin to make out an error of law which would mean Wilson’s conviction ought to be overturned.