Ukip’s Matthew Smith faces retrial as jury discharged in electoral fraud case
- Credit: Rob Colman
A former Ukip parliamentary candidate faces a retrial from June 1, after jurors failed to reach a verdict on two remaining counts.
Matthew Smith, the Norfolk County Council member for Gorleston St Andrews, has been cleared of seven counts of electoral fraud.
But today jurors passed a note to Judge Anthony Bate, explaining they found it 'almost impossible to imagine being able to reach a majority verdict' on two remaining counts of making a false statement in nomination papers.
The jury was discharged after around 18 hours of deliberation, at the end of the 17-day trial.
Judge Bate said: 'In my judgment, this was a meticulous and thorough enquiry by the police major investigation team, who have navigated the obvious sensitivities and unusual legal aspects of this case with scrupulous care.
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'The case was properly brought to the crown court for independent consideration by a Norfolk jury.'
He praised jurors for their 'diligent' service, and said the 'measured' terms in their final note reporting deadlock were to their credit.
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Brett Weaver, prosecuting, said the crown remained of the view that there was a case to answer, and it was in the public interest to pursue this.
A retrial on the two remaining counts has been fixed for June 1 at Norwich Crown Court, and is set to last two weeks.
Smith had been selected to stand for parliament in the key seat of Great Yarmouth at the next general election.
But he was suspended from the party after allegations emerged surrounding forged signatures on nomination forms submitted by UKIP in the 2013 county council elections, during which he acted as the party's agent.
Smith, 27, of High Street, Gorleston, stood trial at Norwich Crown Court after denying six counts of making a false statement in nomination papers knowing that they contained false signatures and three of making false nomination papers.
After 13 hours of deliberations, jurors found him not guilty of one count of making a false statement and three of making false nomination papers.
They later cleared him of three further counts of making a false statement.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the two remaining counts of the same charge, and they will go to a second trial.
Fellow UKIP members Michael Monk, 60, of Freeman Close, Hopton, and Daniel Thistlethwaite, 20, of Station Road South, Belton, had both denied one charge of making a false statement in nomination papers and were cleared.
Under election rules, all candidates standing as councillors must obtain 10 signatures on nomination forms.
The prosecution alleged seven out of eight forms submitted by UKIP in that election contained forged signatures. Giving evidence, Smith had claimed he submitted forms with genuine signatures but that these were later substituted in an attempt to smear him.
Smith had originally worked for the Conservatives but fell out with the party after leaving acrimoniously in 2011.