11:19AM, Tuesday 19 April 2016
A former chairman of Slough UKIP has been told by a magistrate that he abused a ‘position of trust’ after he pleaded guilty to two counts of electoral fraud yesterday (Monday).
Steven Gillingwater, of Tennyson Way, Britwell, admitted he had forged a majority of signatures on nomination papers for two UKIP candidates in the local elections in May, saying he had added names of people that he met at a bus stop.
The 26-year-old was a party agent for UKIP at the time when the offences were committed between March 26 and April 9, 2015.
The court heard how Gillingwater was under ‘pressure to get the nominations in’ and due to his anxieties and mental health did not actually remember committing the offences.
However, district judge Khan told Gillingwater his actions were a ‘breach of trust’.
He added: “You were in a senior position in the party and in a position of trust.
“You have let your former party down.”
Gillingwater was sentenced at Slough Magistrates’ Court to 16 weeks imprisonment for each offence, to be served concurrently, suspended for one year.
Officers at Slough Borough Council became suspicious of the nomination papers and contacted police.
During an investigation about 20 people who appeared on the forms were questioned by Thames Valley Police with 15 of them confirming they had not signed the form.
The two candidates, Malcolm Mason and Sherine Lake, had no involvement in the offences.
Gillingwater is also disqualified from holding electoral office for five years.
Detective Inspector Gavin Tyrrell, head of Thames Valley Police economic crime unit, said: “Election legislation can be complex but the public have to be confident that their representatives are elected by fair means and not through misconduct or fraud.
“This investigation has taken considerable resource but has been fully justified to protect the election process.
“I trust that this case not only reassures our communities but also sends a clear message to all parties engaged in elections at every level that Thames Valley Police take allegations such as these seriously and will work with our partners to bring offenders to justice.”