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ELECTION FRAUD PROBE

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election scandalTHE FINDING of guilt by a council committee investigating the electioneering activities of Council Deputy Leader Rob Lewis might only have resulted in two weeks’ suspension for the representative from Martletwy, but The Pembrokeshire Herald now understands that there could be significantly wider fallout from the affair.

The preparation of candidates’ election leaflets by Cllr Lewis and former County Councillor David Wildman, and their printing by a commercial printer, could mean that candidates who failed to declare who published and printed their election material could have their election declared void and be debarred from public office.

QUESTIONS continue to arise from the conduct of Deputy Leader of the County Council, Rob Lewis of Martletwy. Also the scandal could spread and affect candidates whose literature and promotional material was prepared by Cllr Lewis and then printed and circulated without proper declarations required by election law being made. In a breach of the Council’s clear rules of conduct, Cllr Lewis used and abused Council facilities to plan election campaigns for supposedly “independent” councillors, who were members of an IPG slate in the 2008 & 2012 Council elections.

For those breaches, Cllr Lewis was controversially suspended from the Council for only two weeks and tried throughout to deflect blame by painting himself as a victim of wrongdoing. The scandal about the IPPG’s election tactics and abuse of publicly-funded facilities was blown wide open by East Williamston councillor Jacob Williams on his online blog jacobwilliams.com.

It appears that his explosive revelations about the conduct of senior IPPG Councillors David Wildman and Rob Lewis, will have considerable further fall out.

Online comments made by other Councillors have suggested that far from being at all contrite Cllr Lewis has expressed no remorse since the suspension was handed down.

The new questions arise out of declarations that candidates for election must make on their campaign material as to who has published and printed their election literature.

Cllr Lewis was found to have prepared election literature and commissioned its printing from a business run by a Council employee who works in the Council’s own printing department. The rules on elections provide that Candidates must ensure that all their election materials (leaflets, posters, placards and all other printed materials), clearly bears on the front of the material, details of:-

• The name and address of the printer of the document

• The name and address of the promoter of the material

• The name and address of the person on behalf of whom the material is being published (and who is not the promoter)

For example: printed by Bloggs & Co of Anytown, published by Mrs Candidate on behalf of Mr Candidate of Anytown.

Failure to observe these requirements may lead to summary conviction and a fine, even if the candidate was unsuccessful. An elected candidate who is found guilty can have his/her election voided. As the duty of care in respect of the offence requires no criminal intent but a finding of fact as to whether the material used to promote a candidate is misleading, the offence is one of strict liability. In other words, a candidate is stuck with the penalty for wrongdoing, even if he was unaware what they did was illegal, as they are supposed to make sure they are aware of the relevant election laws. As advice to potential candidates on an English county council’s website puts it, quoting a former Lord Chief Justice:

“People who employ crossing sweepers to mend watches, cannot complain if the result is unsuccessful”.

The consequences for the ruling IPPG group could be particularly serious. The Pembrokeshire Herald is aware of once instance at least in 2012 where an unsuccessful candidate appears to have had his election literature prepared by Rob Lewis and printed by a commercial printer but failed to declare the same.

The candidate on that occasion, Byron Frayling, stood against David Bryan in the Haverfordwest Priory Ward.

Certainly, the pre-press versions of many candidates” election literature which were then commercially printed are in breach of election law.

The number of IPPG candidates who are potentially affected include members of the current Cabinet. A Councillor whose election literature was potentially in breach of election law even appeared on a list of “recruiters” for the then IPG at the election counts in May 2008. His role was to hand out cards inviting new, unaffiliated councillors to a meeting to join the IPG. That Councillor subsequently stated publicly that he had not decided to join the IPG until a time

AFTER the election took place.

On computer files seen by The Pembrokeshire Herald that candidate, Cllr Ken Rowlands, the Cabinet Spokesperson for Education, appears in a list of IPG candidates for canvassing on Tuesday April 29, 2008, a few days before the election. That file is shown as being printed on April 22, 2008 and created on April 7, 2008.

It is not clear whether Cllr Rowlands literature was printed by Clive James, the printer Cllr Lewis says printed IPG material, but Mr Rowlands election literature in the 2008 election was created and edited in mid-April by former Councillor David Wildman and current Deputy Leader, the suspended Rob Lewis. That is contrary to the declaration on that literature’s face, which states that the document was printed and published by the candidate’s wife.

Similarly, the properties of the material for Mr Rowlands election in 2012 show that it was created by his then fellow Cabinet member, David Wildman, despite a declaration on the same material that it was printed and published by Mr Rowlands himself.

We can re-assure Mr Rowlands, and we are happy to confirm in print, that not only did we not receive the material we publish today from Cllr Jacob Williams, but that it was provided it to us by a concerned third party. We have not discussed the story with Cllr Williams, other than to ask whether he would be happy for us to credit his website with breaking the story in the first place.

The Electoral Commission told the Herald that it has no powers to investigate allegations of election fraud, and that allegations of illegality should be immediately reported to the Police. The Commission also referred us to its online guidance, which suggested that it works closely with Returning Officers to monitor elections. The Returning Officer for Pembrokeshire is Bryn Parry Jones.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Teifion

    March 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Every week you think things cannot get worse and then another story pops up and you realise things ARE worse, to top it all those skunks don’t even apologise or act remorseful.
    Still nothing happens – where are those coppers, what are they doing ? or is it a case of “I was taught to be cautious” ;-(

  2. Kate Becton

    March 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Teifion – have just been on ‘that other website’, where there is an interesting and wide ranging discussion and where the redoubtable John Hudson has just posted the information that the police cannot investigate breaches of election law, unless the complaint was made within 12 months of the alleged offence taking place.

    I don’t know whether it was against the Code of Conduct – I doubt it, the only hope might be that it is against the Code of Conduct to authorise others to produce your election material using Council resources – how to prove it???

    A little depressing is’nt it.

  3. Robin Howells, Chair, Preseli Pembrokeshire Labour Party

    April 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    What next? Each week I wonder what’s the next scandal going to be in County Hall amongst IPPG. Sad thing is they are still the ruling group. When the next local authority elections come around that’s hope people remember what’s going on in County Hall and think to themselves it’s time for a change. If there was any honour amongst them and compliance with the code of conduct then we would be seeing some resignations but no, IPPG really do think they are serving the public and are public servants – but reality is they serve their own self-interests for short term personal gain. A disgrace to this county. It’s good to see though Councillors like Paul Miller (Labour Group Leader and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Pembrokeshire for 2015) coming forward and exposing what goes on in the Kremlin on the Cleddau. Just think what a great MP he would be for this county. Talking of MP’s where is Stephen Crabb whilst all this going in County Hall? Very quiet on the issue – sometimes silence does say quite a bit. It’s action I like in am MP not apathy.

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Haverfordwest drug dealer jailed for more than three years

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A MAN caught in possession of drugs twice in a month by Dyfed-Powys Police has been jailed for three years and nine months.

Nabil Ali Syed, aged 29, of St Issells Avenue, Merlin’s Bridge, Haverfordwest, pleaded guilty to four counts of possession with intent to supply drugs and two counts of possession when he appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, 31 July.

“This sends a clear message that drug dealing will not be tolerated and when caught you are going to face a lengthy custodial sentence even if you are of a previously clean character, as was the case here,” said Phillip Jones.

Syed was first arrested when he was pulled over after concerns over the manner of his driving on the A40 near St Clears on April 18.

A subsequent search found a quantity of cocaine and other class A, B and C drugs in his possession.

A month later, on 19 May, Syed was stopped while walking in Hawthorn Rise, Haverfordwest, during checks over Covid-19 restrictions, when he was once again searched and found to be in possession of a quantity of cocaine and crack cocaine.

DC Jones added: “This is a positive result. Although he was relatively unknown to police, it is clear he was very active in drug supply in Pembrokeshire.

“We hope this result will send shockwaves to people involved in drug supply in West Wales.”

To report anything suspicious or concerns about the selling and taking of drugs in the community call 101, or report online. To report information anonymously, call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Porthgain: Stranded kayakers recovered by Fishguard RNLI

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A FAMILY of four in two kayaks became stranded on an isolated beach near Porthgain on Thursday evening (Jul 30).

The RNLI said: “The incident resulted in both Fishguard RNLI lifeboats launching to recover them and their kayaks.

“The all-weather lifeboat and inshore lifeboat launched at 8.30pm with full crews and were on scene at 9.30pm with the all-weather lifeboat standing off whilst the inshore lifeboat picked up the two parents and two children, who were all well, from the remote beach and delivered them and their kayaks back to Porthgain and then returned to base shortly before 11pm.”

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First Minister eases COVID restrictions

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NEW rules have come into force today (Monday Aug 3) to make it easier for family and friends to meet outdoors, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Friday 31 July as he set out further changes to the coronavirus regulations in Wales.

The latest package of changes follow the sixth review of the coronavirus regulations and focus on enabling friends and family to meet each other outdoors and enabling more businesses to open indoors.

The First Minster has explained that consideration has been given to extend the number of people able to meet indoors, however this will depend on people continuing to follow the rules and levels of the virus in Wales.

And has urged people to follow the new rules and guidance to help keep Wales safe and control the spread of coronavirus in the face of worrying trends across Europe.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We are becoming accustomed to living with coronavirus but we shouldn’t forget the danger it poses. This is a deadly disease and the risk to our health has not gone away – as we can see in parts of Europe where there have been new outbreaks and new measures introduced to control its spread.

“The rates of the virus in Wales remain low, allowing us to relax the restrictions further over the next few weeks but we can only do this if everyone continues to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Businesses are required to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on their premises. They have worked really hard to put in place measures to protect staff and customers. And we all need to do our bit too by complying with these and to keep our distance whenever we leave home and meet others.

“To the small minority who aren’t following the rules – we will take action. We’re working with our enforcement authorities here in Wales to ensure they have the powers and resources they need. I want to make sure all the measures developed to keep us safe are complied with.”

A series of changes will be made to the coronavirus regulations over the next three weeks:

From 3 August:

The restrictions preventing more than two households or extended households meeting outdoors will be changed to allow up to 30 people to meet outdoors. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes will be able to re-open indoors. As will indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls.

Licenced wedding venues will be able to re-open to provide wedding ceremonies. However, indoor receptions will not be able to take place for the time being – they will be considered as part of the changes for August 15.

The guidance will be updated to relax the position on children under 11 having to maintain a 2m distance from each other or from adults. This reflects the scientific evidence, which shows the risk of transmission is lower among this age group. However, it is very important older children and young adults continue to follow social distancing and the other measures to keep them safe.
If conditions remain favourable, from 10 August:

Swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas and indoor leisure centres will be able to re-open.
Children’s indoor play areas will be able to open.

The Welsh Government is also exploring whether changes can be made to the rules to enable people to meet indoors with other people who aren’t part of their household or extended household from August 15.

The First Minister added:

“It is thanks to the hard efforts of everyone in Wales that we have been able to control the spread of coronavirus and relax the restrictions. We can only continue to do this if everyone carries on this hard work.

“If we stop now, there is a real risk we will see new outbreaks of coronavirus and we may have to reverse some of these restrictions to control its spread again.

“We are facing the likelihood of a resurgence of the virus over the autumn and winter –this will not be over by Christmas. We all have an ongoing responsibility to keep Wales safe. This means maintaining social distancing, washing our hands often and thinking carefully about where we go, what we’re doing and why.”

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