Three UKIP members forged dozens of signatures on electoral forms, court hears
- Credit: James Bass
Three UKIP members 'cut corners' and fell short of the conduct expected of elected representatives as they forged dozens of signatures on electoral forms, prosecutors have said.
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.
The charges relate to county council elections in the Yarmouth area in May 2013, when Smith stood for election and acted as UKIP's electoral agent.
Today, prosecutor Brett Weaver outlined evidence of forged signatures on seven out of eight forms submitted by the party in that campaign.
He added: 'These defendants were engaged in an electoral fraud on a significant scale either to gain election for themselves or others.'
On some of the forms, more than half of the signatures were forged - while one consisted entirely of fake signatures.
The signatures bore no relation to those of the individuals involved and it was 'abundantly plain' they were fake, Mr Weaver said.
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One features the name David McCulloch, who died shortly after the election. He was dyslexic and as a result signed his name with particular care.
When contacted by police, his daughter was easily able to confirm that it was not his signature, the court heard.
Jonathan Childs, who was the UKIP candidate for East Flegg in that election, himself raised concerns after his form was submitted without him signing it or ever seeing it.
Others whose names were fraudulently included said they would never have agreed to sign the papers.
Mr Weaver said: 'This case is not a witch hunt against UKIP or its supporters.
'What this case involves is a few individuals who sought to cut corners and submits false forms to the authorities.
'It does not matter if they are Labour, Conservative or Monster Raving Loony party members.
'Those who stand for election are expected to behave with the highest levels of integrity and probity.'
Smith was elected in the 2013 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.
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 Yarmouth and is suspended by the party.