Independent probe launched into Wiltshire and Swindon PCC election

An independent investigation has been launched into the Wiltshire and Swindon police and crime commissioner (PCC) election after it was won by a candidate who withdrew over an historical driving conviction.

May 12, 2021
By Website Editor
Jonathon Seed

Conservative Party candidate Jonathon Seed received 40 per cent of the vote in the first round and was elected after it went to a second ballot, but he will not be able to take up the post.

In a statement released after the result was declared, the election’s returning officer Terence Herbert said he would be considering the next steps after taking appropriate legal advice.

On Tuesday (May 11), Wiltshire Police said it had asked another police force to lead on an investigation “to ensure independent oversight and to remove any potential conflict of interest”.

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police added: “Following a request by Wiltshire Police, we have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 2021 Wiltshire and Swindon PCC election. As our inquiries are ongoing we will not be making further comment at this time.”

Electoral Commission guidance says PCC candidates cannot stand for election if they have been convicted of an offence punishable with a prison sentence.

Mr Herbert said: “The election has been called and Jonathon Seed has been duly elected. As regards to the next steps, as the head of paid services, I am the appropriate officer for making any declaration as to the office of the PCC becoming vacant.

“Given this unprecedented situation and given the circumstances, I will be seeking legal advice on the next steps and at that point I will be able to make any statements necessary about the position. If the post of the PCC is vacant, if someone is disqualified or does not sign the declaration, then the post will be defined as vacant and an election will be called.”

Kieran Kilgallen, chief executive from Wiltshire and Swindon’s Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), said operational policing will remain unaffected.

He said: “The strategic direction of Wiltshire Police, and its priorities, have already been set by the outgoing PCC and the current police and crime plan remains in place until the end of the financial year. Responsibility for implementing this through operational policing, and the day-to-day running of the force, remains with Chief Constable Kier Pritchard.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said Mr Seed, who had been hoping to take over from departing Conservative colleague Angus Macpherson, had been “disbarred” after a driving offence had “come to light”.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Seed – who won a combined total of 47 per cent of the vote – insisted he had declared his conviction to the party in his application for the role.

Mr Seed said: “To the best of my knowledge and belief when I applied for, and became, the PCC candidate for the Conservative Party in Wiltshire and Swindon, I was an eligible candidate.

“I have declared my 30-year-old driving conviction to the party in my applications both to be a parliamentary candidate and more recently a PCC candidate.

“Party officials confirmed my belief that my offence did not disqualify me. I have now been advised that this is not the case, and that I am disqualified as a PCC candidate. I have therefore withdrawn.”

Mr Seed – who won a total of 100,003 votes – added he would be “bitterly disappointed” not to take up the post if he won the election.

Liberal Democrat candidate Liz Webster, who came second after securing 17 per cent of the vote in the first round and a combined total of 27 per cent, said: “The question that needs to be asked is when the Conservative Party knew (Mr Seed) was ineligible to stand and, if that was before Thursday (polling day), why they didn’t say anything, because voters could have made an informed decision.

“It’s going to cost the taxpayer £1.4 million to re-run the election, and there will obviously have to be a further police inquiry and, depending on the outcome, it may be a case for the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Ms Webster, who won a total of 58,074 votes, added: “Jonathon Seed has treated Wiltshire and Swindon residents with total contempt. Re-running this election will require residents to vote again and deny our tired elections staff their well-deserved break. All of that is an absolute disgrace.”

A spokesperson for the OPCC said: “While this situation is unprecedented, there is legislation in place for this eventuality and due process will be followed. Angus Macpherson remains as PCC until Thursday.

“The OPCC will be working closely with Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and the Police and Crime Panel, once confirmed, to ensure any following legal process is handled as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Mr Seed – who faced competition from five other candidates for the PCC post which involves holding Wiltshire Police to account, overseeing a budget and setting its priorities – was also re-elected as a councillor to Wiltshire Council for the Melksham Without West and Rural ward on Saturday.


PCC election results:

Avon and Somerset – Mark Shelford (Conservative); Bedfordshire – Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative); Cambridgeshire – Darryl Preston (Conservative); Cheshire – John Dwyer (Conservative); Cleveland – Steve Turner (Conservative); Cumbria – Peter McCall (Conservative); Derbyshire – Angelique Foster (Labour); Devon and Cornwall – Alison Hernandez (Conservative); Dorset –David Sidwick (Conservative); Durham– Joy Allen (Labour); Dyfed-Powys – Dafydd Llewelyn (Plaid-Cymru); Essex – Roger Hirst (Conservative); Gloucestershire – Chris Nelson (Conservative); Gwent – Jeff Cuthbert (Labour); Hampshire – Donna Jones (Conservative); Hertfordshire – David Lloyd (Conservative); Humberside – Jonathan Evison (Conservative); Kent – Matthew Scott (Conservative); Lancashire – Andrew Snowden (Conservative); Leicestershire – Rupert Matthews (Conservative); Lincolnshire – Marc Jones (Conservative); Merseyside – Emily Spurrell (Labour); Norfolk – Giles Orpen-Smellie (Conservative); Northamptonshire – Stephen Mold (Conservative); North Wales – Andy Dunbobbin (Labour); North Yorkshire – Philip Allott (Conservative); Northumbria – Kim McGuinness (Labour); Nottinghamshire – Caroline Henry (Conservative); South Wales – Alun Michael (Labour); South Yorkshire – Alan Billings (Conservative); Staffordshire – Ben Adams (Conservative); Suffolk – Tim Passmore (Conservative); Surrey – Lisa Townsend (Conservative); Sussex – Katy Bourne (Conservative); Thames Valley – Matthew Barber (Conservative); Warwickshire – Philip Seccombe (Conservative); West Mercia – John Campion (Conservative); and West Midlands – Simon Foster (Labour).

Four of the PCCs are also fire commissioners. They are Essex, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Staffordshire.

Mayors: Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham (Labour); London – Saqid Khan (Labour); and West Yorkshire – Tracy Brabin (Labour).


 

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