Friday, 23 January 2015

"Fantasy" defence?

From Great Yarmouth Mercury by Lucy Clapham:

Defence case for Gorleston UKIP supporter in fraud trial described as ‘fantasy’

Matthew Smith arriving at his continuing trial at Norwich Crown Court.

The defence case for a former UKIP parliamentary hopeful standing trial accused of electoral fraud has been described as “little more than fantasy”.

Matthew Smith is one of three UKIP supporters standing trial at Norwich Crown Court.

The charges relate to the 2013 county council polls when Smith acted as UKIP’s electoral agent. The prosecution claim there were forged signatures on seven of the eight forms submitted by the party.

Smith, 27, of High Street, Gorleston, has denied six counts of making a false statement in nomination papers, knowing they contained false signatures and three of making false nomination papers.

Michael Monk, 60, of Freeman Close, Hopton, and Daniel Thistlethwaite, 20, of Station Road South, Belton have pleaded not guilty to one charge of making a false statement in nomination papers.

Summing up yesterday Brett Weaver, prosecuting, said Smith’s explanation for false signatures appearing on forms was that someone had removed the genuine paperwork and replaced it with forms containing forgeries.

“The most unlikely course of steps must have taken place, so unlikely we say impossible,” Mr Weaver added.

He told the jury Monk and Thistlethwaite were willing to submit bogus forms, and added: 
Through their actions together and Mr Smith the integrity of our election system was damaged. There’s no conspiracy here… no mystery man on the grassy knoll of the town hall.
Piers Wauchope, for Smith, said anyone with a pass to the town hall could gain access to the office where forms were kept, and said the office itself was “insecure”.

He added: 
Mr Weaver makes much of the difficulty it would be to get one of these forms and get a copy and produce another one. Is it really that difficult? You’ve got an office here with a photocopier.
He told the court experts had not been able to say the forged signatures on the forms “were the work of one person”.

”Several people have been filling in the signatures and there’s not a scrap of evidence the crown can rely on that any one of those forged signatures was written by Matthew Smith,” he added.

Monk, representing himself, said that, according to the prosecution, his motivation for committing the alleged fraud was because he chose the “easy route”.

“I do a full time job, 45 - 50 hours a week, and I still commit myself to this because I believe in it. The allegation that at the very end I would partake in a fraud, a shortcut, that would undermine all our good just not believable,” he added.

The trial continues.

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