Court hears UK Independence Party contender submitted forged electoral nomination forms to boost performance at local council elections

Former UKIP councillor Matthew Smith.

Former UKIP councillor Matthew Smith. - Credit: James Bass

A Ukip parliamentary contender from Norfolk submitted electoral nomination forms filled with forged signatures in an attempt to boost the party's performance in council elections, a court has heard.

A Ukip parliamentary contender from Norfolk submitted electoral nomination forms filled with forged signatures in an attempt to boost the party's performance in council elections, a court has heard.

Matthew Smith, 27, the Norfolk County Council member for Gorleston St Andrews who had been selected to stand for parliament in Great Yarmouth at the next general election, is one of three men standing trial at Norwich Crown Court over the alleged electoral fraud.

Prosecutor Brett Weaver said Smith intended to deceive the authorities by submitting false nominations for candidates hoping to stand in the 2013 election for Norfolk County Council.

Seven out of eight forms submitted by Ukip in that campaign were alleged to contain forged signatures.

On some of the forms more than half of the signatures were forged while one consisted entirely of fake signatures, Mr Weaver said.

He added: 'This trial relates to malpractice regarding the nomination forms required for a candidate to be allowed to stand.

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'Our case is that nomination forms were submitted which contained false signatures purporting to be those of genuine voters.'

Smith, who as well as being a candidate was involved in the wider campaign in the Great Yarmouth area, was elected in that poll and his own nomination slip is said to have contained forged details.

Two other men - Ukip member Michael Monk and Daniel Thistlethwaite, who stood as a candidate in the West Flegg ward for the same election - are also on trial.

As well as Gorleston St Andrews and West Flegg, nominations in the Caistor, East Flegg, Magdalen and Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown divisions were implicated.

Under electoral rules, all candidates standing in council elections must obtain 10 nominations from members of the public.

The purpose of the scam was to convince election officials to allow candidates who would not otherwise have complied with the criteria to stand to become councillors, Mr Weaver added.

Smith, of High Street, Gorleston, has denied six counts of making a false statement in nomination papers knowing that they contained false signatures and three of making false nomination papers.

Monk, 60, of Freeman Close, Hopton, and Thistlethwaite, 19, of Station Road South, Belton, pleaded not guilty to one charge of making a false statement in nomination papers.

Smith has since stood down as the Ukip's prospective parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth and been suspended by the party.

The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.

Council officials discovered irregularities with the forms when they attempted to input them into a computer system a few days before the April 5 deadline for nominations.

Party representatives were informed about the problem and asked to examine the papers.

'Far from being on alert, Mr Smith allowed forms with false signatures to continue to be submitted,' Mr Weaver added.

The forms were taken on face value and it was not until April 23 that major concerns were raised.

The deputy returning officer, Linda Mockford, was informed that one candidate, Jonathan Childs, who was standing in East Flegg, had not signed or ever seen his own nomination form.

When his paper was examined, there was a 'striking difference' between the signature on the form and his real signature so the officer contacted the police.

'Far from being an isolated case, there were other examples where the signatures on form were different to those held,' Mr Weaver said.

In the run-up to the election, candidates and their agents were provided with voters' details to assist with filling in the forms along with guidance on how they should be properly completed.

In some case, the candidates themselves had not signed their own forms, the court heard.

Mr Weaver said: 'Notwithstanding this guidance, basic common sense is enough to know that the forging of signatures is both unlawful and brings into disrepute the entire election system.'

The case continues.

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