UPDATE: Gorleston UKIP councillor Matthew Smith criticises police as he faces fraud charges
PUBLISHED: 20:05 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 20:05 17 March 2014
(C) Archant Norfolk 2013
A Norfolk UKIP county councillor facing electoral fraud charges has likened the allegations to “getting a parking ticket”.
Matthew Smith, who represents Gorleston St Andrew’s division and is also the UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Great Yarmouth, is one of three men who are facing charges.
The 26-year-old said he “completely denies” the allegations, which relate to forged signatures on nomination papers.
He is facing suspension from Norfolk County Council’s UKIP group while the case is ongoing, and he said more will be known about his position as UKIP PPC for Yarmouth after his Norwich Magistrates’ Court date on April 4.
Mr Smith was elected last May.
Together with two other men, he is accused of returning fraudulent nomination papers in the Norfolk County Council elections held in the Great Yarmouth district between March and April 2013.
The trio have been reported for summons.
The charges were authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service and follow an investigation into allegations of electoral malpractice reported to Norfolk Constabulary last April.
Mr Smith, of High Street, Gorleston, will face 10 charges - comprising seven counts of supplying a nomination paper to a returning officer knowing it to contain a forged signature (contrary to the Representation of the People Act 1983) and three counts of producing forged nomination papers (contrary to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981).
Mr Smith said he had not been charged, and added: “It’s no different to a parking ticket in that sense.
“I’ve not been charged and the opinion of my solicitor is I might not be charged.”
He said he had “no problem” with his suspension from the county UKIP group, and on his position as Yarmouth UKIP PPC said: “More will be known when it gets to April 4.”
He added: “I’m very concerned that police issued the statement [to the press] before they informed me.
“That’s bang out of order.
“It doesn’t seem like the CPS or the police know their backside from their elbow when it comes to this case.”
Daniel Thistlethwaite, 19, of Station Road, South Belton, and Michael Monk, 60, of Freeman Close, Hopton, will be jointly charged with Matthew Smith of one count of supplying a nomination paper to a returning officer knowing it to contain a forged signature.
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “We are aware of the allegations made against councillor Smith.
“For the time being, while the prosecution is being pursued, there is no legal requirement for him to stand down as a county councillor.”
However, Toby Coke, leader of the UKIP group on Norfolk County Council, said he was looking to suspend Mr Smith.
He said: “These are very serious allegations, which will be subject to court proceedings. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about the substance of the matter.
“However, I can confirm that I am in the process of suspending councillor Matthew Smith from the UKIP Group at County Hall, with immediate effect, pending the outcome of the court case.”
Investigations began after a complaint was made ahead of the county elections on May 2.
Mr Smith, who is Great Yarmouth’s UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate, was the local party agent for the election campaign.