On being bundled towards the exit.

Today’s post is a Fergus-Free Zone. Don’t worry, we will return to him in due course.

Today’s Guardian carries an opinion poll with a narrow but clear lead for Leave. What is striking, as the paper makes clear, is the difference in opinions between age groups. 53% of 18-34 year-olds support Remain, while 54% of 55 years+ support Leave.

Most worrying for Remain,  while 51% of the younger age group say they plan to vote, among the older voters that figure rises to 81%. And the move to individual voter registration has led to disproportionate numbers of young people dropping off the electoral register, while older voters are more likely to turn out to vote. We have already seen this effect as older people form a voting bloc that makes touching pensioners’ benefits like free TV licences, bus passes or pension rises politically impossible.

There are, of course, massive caveats about this, and every other poll at this stage. Predictions of turnout are notoriously unreliable. There is a very long way to go in the campaign, and experience of referendums elsewhere suggests that opinions tend to harden in favour of the status quo as the vote approaches. Reasons for choosing safety first appear to be more compelling than a leap in the dark.

Nevertheless, it appears possible that pro-European young people will find themselves bundled towards Brexit by their older relations. That worries me, and I think it should worry you regardless of how you intend to vote in the referendum. If you plan to vote Remain, clearly you should be worried about losing. But even if you plan to vote Leave, you should be worried that the legitimacy of your victory will be undermined by poor turnout from other groups. And you should be very worried about the backlash from people who think they’ve been robbed: young people who will disproportionately bear the burdens of Brexit. Europe may join housing as a flashpoint.

Be afraid, be very afraid, of setting up conflict between the generations.

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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:

wilson

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.

On Fergus Wilson, those adverts, and that punch.

Anyone reading the local press in Kent can’t have missed the increasingly hilarious (in every sense of the word) adverts from notorious landlord and relentless self-publicist Fergus Wilson.

Wilson,  who recently announced that he and his wife have sold their property empire for £250m, has ambitions to become Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Surprisingly for a man who once announced that he had no English tenants left in Maidstone and had let all his properties there to Eastern Europeans, Wilson has clearly decided that he is going to be carried into the Commissioner’s office on a tide of anti-immigrant feeling. Recent adverts have declared Kent to be on a “war footing,” and announced his intention to deport illegal immigrants within 24 hours “in chains if need be.” Never mind about due legal process or any of that namby-pamby nonsense. Previously he has said he will take command of the Royal Navy in order to close the channel. Plainly he is not a man troubled by self-doubt.

There is one problem, however. In April 2014 Wilson was convicted of assaulting a lettings agent in a dispute about a boiler. The local press have reported that this disqualifies him from standing. However Wilson himself denies this, the press reporting him as saying

I’ve been told the process for election works exactly the same as MPs, it’s if you’ve been convicted of a crime carrying a minimum sentence of a year or more.

People are welcome to complain, but the only people who will complain are those who feel they are front runners for the election and feel they need to get me out of the picture.

So what is the truth? Police and Crime Commissioners were established by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Section 66 of the Act sets out the grounds on which a candidate is disqualified, and the relevant provision for us is as follows (emphasis added):

(3)A person is disqualified from being elected as, or being, a police and crime commissioner if—

(a)the person is the subject of—

(i)a debt relief restrictions order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 4ZB to the Insolvency Act 1986;

(ii)an interim debt relief restrictions order under paragraph 5 of that Schedule;

(iii)a bankruptcy restrictions order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 4A to that Act;

(iv)a bankruptcy restrictions interim order under paragraph 5 of that Schedule;

(b)a debt relief restrictions undertaking has effect in respect of the person under paragraph 7 of Schedule 4ZB to that Act;

(c)the person has been convicted in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man, of any imprisonable offence (whether or not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in respect of the offence); or

(d)the person is incapable of being elected as a member of the House of Commons, or is required to vacate a seat in the House of Commons, under Part 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (consequences of corrupt or illegal practices).

(4)For the purpose of subsection (3)(c)

(a)“imprisonable offence” means an offence—

(i)for which a person who has attained the age of 18 years may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, or

(ii)for which, in the case of such a person, the sentence is fixed by law as life imprisonment;

(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, a person convicted of a crime for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment is disqualified, regardless of whether he was actually imprisoned or not and, crucially, regardless of the length of the possible jail term. The maximum penalty for common assault is six months imprisonment so it is an imprisonable offence as defined by the Act. Wilson’s appeal against his conviction was dismissed so the law is clear: he is disqualified and cannot stand.

If Wilson tries to stand, he will be required (like every other candidate) so sign a declaration that he is not disqualified. Making a false declaration is a Corrupt Practice – an offence against electoral law. Regardless of whether any other candidate wants him out of the way, anyone could (and certainly will) report him for that offence. His ambition risks getting him into very hot water indeed.

Fergus Wilson needs to face facts: because of his own criminal behaviour, he is not permitted to be Police and Crime Commissioner.