NORWICH, United Kingdom – A UKIP Councillor who has fought a two year battle to clear his name after being accused of falsifying nomination forms and signatures has an agonising wait to hear if the prosecution will call a retrial for the final two charges.
Yesterday, the jury at Norwich Crown Court found UKIP Councillor Matthew Smith not guilty on four counts of using a false instrument with intent which in each case referred to false signatures of candidates on nomination papers for the 2013 county elections.
Following the permission to allow a majority decision, the jury found Mr Smith Not Guilty of a further three offences of causing or permitting a false statement to be included in a nomination form.
The first four Mr Smith was found Not Guilty of included the most serious charges that he faced, each potentially carrying a term of ten years imprisonment.
The jury then retired to consider the final two counts concerning the lesser charges of allowing or submitting nomination papers with false signatures of assentors.
One of those remaining was the nomination form for West Clegg Division of Norfolk County Council, on which two co-defendants were found Not Guilty yesterday. No UKIP candidate was elected for those divisions.
These results needed to be decided by a majority of at least ten jurors, but the foreman indicated to the judge that this was unlikely to happen.
With the jury now being dismissed, Cllr Smith faces an agonising wait to find out if the prosecution will insist that there is a retrial on the final two charges of submitting a nomination paper with false assentors.
The decision rests with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Matthew Smith, 27, was the UKIP Parliamentary Candidate for Great Yarmouth and looked likely to be one of the party’s first MPs after achieving huge success in the county and borough elections. The constituency is still a three way marginal, but Mr Smith stepping down as the candidate could only have been good news for the incumbent MP, Minister Brandon Lewis, and the Labour candidate who are now facing a lesser rival in Alan Grey.
The defence’s case received a huge boost when the Association Chairman of Great Yarmouth Conservatives vouched for the defendant and admitted to the court that there was frustration and anger in the party following the UKIP surge in the town.
Jennifer Beesley, who was ordered to attend to give evidence, revealed to the court that following the disappointing results, some of her conservative colleagues had made comments about wanting to discredit Mr Smith, who was a former employee of the party.
“Feelings were running high at the meeting,” she told the jury, adding that Mr Smith was discussed at the meeting of local Conservative members.
She said under oath that one Tory councillor, George Jermany, made a comment asking why Mr Smith was dismissed from his job – following which he won a case of unfair dismissal – and asked if the reasons could “damage his reputation”.
Pointing out that the employment dispute included a confidentially clause she revealed that she was unimpressed with the behaviour of her Conservative colleagues, saying “After the behaviour of that meeting I am afraid I was rather disgusted.”
The prosecution have until 1400hrs today to decide.