11:59AM, Friday 22 April 2016
Accusations of bullying and homophobia within the Slough UKIP party have been vehemently denied by its chairman after one of its former members received a suspended prison sentence for electoral fraud.
Former Slough UKIP chairman Steven Gillingwater appeared at Slough Magistrates Court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to two counts of electoral fraud.
The 26-year-old, of Tennyson Way, Britwell, admitted he had forged a majority of signatures on nomination papers for two UKIP candidates in local elections last May, saying he had added names of people that he met at a bus stop.
Council election guidelines state that nominees require a proposer, a seconder and eight genuine signatures from people living in the area to qualify as a candidate.
The court heard that, during the time of the offences between March 26 and April 9, 2015, Gillingwater was under ‘pressure to get the nominations in’ and due to his anxieties did not actually remember committing the offences.
He also claimed he was being bullied in the party and was subjected to homophobic comments.
But Lea Trainer, who is the current chairman of UKIP Slough, insisted bullying is ‘not going on in the party’.
He told the Express that Gillingwater had, in fact, been supported by other members of the party.
Mr Trainer added: “It is disgraceful that he has used the homophobic card to overshadow the crime. I am upset and disappointed, as my reason for getting into politics myself was to show the public there are people out there who are honest.”
Gillingwater was sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment for each offence, to be served concurrently, suspended for 12 months.
He is also banned from holding political office in the borough for five years. District Judge Shomon Khan told Gillingwater his actions were a ‘breach of trust’.
He said: “You were in a senior position in the party and in a position of trust. You have let your former party down.”
Officers at Slough Borough Council alerted the police about the forged papers.
During an investigation, about 20 people who appeared on the forms were questioned by Thames Valley Police; 15 of them confirmed they had not signed them.
The two UKIP candidates, Malcolm Mason and Sherine Lake, had no involvement in the offences.
Gillingwater, who defected from UKIP to the Slough Conservatives a week after the elections, was charged with electoral fraud on March 7.