Fergus Wilson – no charges brought

Last year I reported on prospective Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Fergus Wilson, and alleged that he was disqualified from standing due to his 2014 conviction for common assault. Subsequently, after Mr Wilson submitted nomination papers, I reported him to Kent Police for making a false declaration in his nomination papers.

Last week I was told by Kent Police that their investigation into Mr Wilson has been completed. I’m informed that Mr Wilson was interviewed as part of that investigation, and that a file has been presented to the CPS, but that no charges are to be brought against him. To bring charges, the CPS must be convinced both that there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and that it’s in the public interest to prosecute.

I was quite happy to let the matter drop there. Mr Wilson’s candidature is at an end, the election is long over and done with, and most importantly he’d promised to “ride off into the sunset” after the failure of his election campaign. He’s not a professional politician and it was over.

However, I see that the following story appears in the Medway Messenger:


fergus nocharges

I’m the complainant. I can confirm that I’ve not been spoken to by the Police in relation to this matter. I stand by my reporting I believed then, and I believe now, that my reporting was accurate and in the public interest. If the Police speak to me, I’ll defend myself vigorously.

Perhaps I’m lucky. A few days ago Mr Wilson was offering to fight a journalist who’d been unkind about his racehorse.

Fergus, it was punching someone that got you into this trouble in the first place.

Advertisements

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.

Steve Uncles – that defence in full

English Democrat candidate Steve Uncles as been in touch on Twitter, in his inimitable style, to take issue with a couple of things I said about him in my previous post. Let’s have a look at his defence in full:

How to win friends and influence people, eh? Presumably ‘clown’ is meant to be a compliment, since they are funny, culturally iconic and highly entertaining, a bit like me.

Indeed Uncles does have two awards for bravery (apparently for the same incident), and very laudable his actions are too: but they are as irrelevant to the role of Police and Crime Commissioner as his 1983 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Nobody expects him to go out and tackle all the criminals himself; he’s meant to be providing scrutiny and strategic leadership to the Police.

Besides, it’s not compulsory to mention everyone’s awards and qualifications in every snarky blogpost, unless Mr Uncles intends to congratulate me on my 25 metre swimming certificate and Cycling Proficiency Badge every time he tweets me in future.

I haven’t forgotten that Uncles gained 50,000 votes in 2009, I’ve not included it deliberately. Firstly, because it’s seven years ago and not even nearly the most recent time he’s stood: more recent elections are plainly more relevant. Secondly, because it’s not actually true: the elections to which Uncles refers are the European Parliamentary elections, and you don’t vote for a candidate in those elections, you vote for the Party. Uncles was first on his party’s list, but he can hardly claim every vote as a personal endorsement of him. And those 50,000 people were across the whole of the South East of England, and represented 2.2% of the vote.

Uncles seems to have forgotten that he contested the same election again in 2014: I asked him what the result of that election was:

For some reason he told me about a completely different election :

Perhaps he needs a reminder that his party received 17,771 votes: that’s down by more than half, and represents just 0.76% of the vote.

Kent PCC Elections – the story so far

And then there were six

18th April is the deadline to vote in the Kent PCC elections: you can register here.

Six candidates remain for the post:

Matthew Scott (Conservative).

Must regard himself as one of the front-runners for the post, given the electoral dominance of the Tories in Kent. The Tories will be looking to gain the Commissioner’s post now that Ann Barnes has decided not to stand.

But dear God, save us from another Tory running things into the ground…

Tristan Osborne (Labour)

Labour’s Tris Osborne is young, dynamic and clearly destined to go a long way in politics. He’s also, er, been tweeting pictures of himself campaigning in London for Sadiq Khan…

Don’t get me wrong, the London Mayoral Election is absolutely key for Labour, and indeed it is a selling point that he’d be able to build stronger links with the Met (there is no PCC in London, the Mayor filling that role), but really…

Dave Naghi (Lib Dem)

The Lib Dems didn’t stand last time, and Maidstone Councillor Dave Naghi doesn’t appear to be putting much effort into it this time either: his official profile on the Lib Dems’ website doesn’t even mention he’s standing, his campaign website hasn’t been updated since March, and his Twitter feed focuses almost entirely on the EU referendum.

As Cllr Naghi seems to be ignoring his campaign, we will do the same.

Henry Bolton (UKIP)

On paper Bolton is an impressive candidate, a retired Army officer who was subsequently seconded to the former Yugoslavia, where he filled a number of impressive-sounding roles. He appears to be campaigning hard, though perhaps wisely he seems to be downplaying his links with UKIP (though he was recently photographed enjoying the statutory pint with Nigel Farage).

On the other hand, he is from UKIP, and therefore unacceptable.

Steve Uncles (English Democrats)

Ugh.

The candidate for the hard-right English Democrats is the only one to have stood in 2012: he came fifth. Since then, he stood for Dartford in the 2015 General Election: his party’s share of the vote collapsed by 90%, and he was placed sixth with 0.4% of the vote.

Uncles attempted to fund his campaign by a crowdfunding effort, raising a miserable £175 towards his £5,000 target.

Rather remarkably, his trial for alleged election fraud has been delayed to enable him to stand this time.

Now that Fergus is no longer with us, Uncles would be the comedy candidate in this election, if it weren’t that he posts stuff like this on Twitter:

…which really isn’t funny at all. We may return to Uncles later, though we may need a bath afterwards.

Gurvinder Sandher (Independent)

Mr Sandher is Director of the Kent Equalities Cohesion Council and a noted equalties campaigner. He has vowed to keep party politics out of policing – though perhaps Kent has had enough of well-meaning but vague independents after Ann Barnes.

And two failed to make the cut:

Tim Garbutt

Independent candidate Tim Garbutt announced that he had decided not to stand in the election, citing alleged high levels of corruption:

Of course it was due to that Tim, and nothing at all to do with finding out that it was going to cost you money to stand:

Fergus Wilson

As we have seen Wilson’s application for leave to appeal for Judicial Review is before the High Court: it is set down for trial next Thursday (April 21st). Bizarrely, Wilson says that he isn’t sure whether he really wants to stand, Kent Online reporting:

He said: “It’s a practical issue. I really don’t know if I’d run,” adding: “A lot of people have got in touch to say they are appalled by the decision.”

I’m sure the Court will be impressed by this apparent waste of their time: and, as the deadline for withdrawals has long since passed, in the highly-unlikely event of his appeal being successful he will have to stand whether he likes it or not.

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.