Former Isle of Wight Council UKIP candidate Richard Wilkins.
A UKIP candidate who stood in Isle of Wight Council elections this year, has been banned from public life for five years, after admitting he forged signatures on his nomination form.
Richard Wilkins' electoral fraud came to light when a Conservative supporter was called before local party leaders to explain why she had supported a UKIP candidate, Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court heard today (Friday).
Fifty-one-year-old sole trader businessman Wilkins, who stood for the Newport North seat won by Matthew Price, forged six of the ten signatures he needed on the form, magistrates were told.
It was the second case of its kind in two months against a UKIP candidate brought under the Representation of the People Act. Another candidate was fined £110 for a similar offence in Cambridge in a separate incident.
Wilkins’ solicitor Barry Arnett told the court that elements of UKIP had given out wrong advice — saying that, provided permission was given by householders, nominations could be signed by candidates.
Wilkins, of Fairmount Drive, Newport, admitted forging the signatures between March 1 and April 15 this year. Despite publicity about the investigation before the May 2 election, Wilkins polled 168 votes, 19.5 per cent of the ballot.
Conservative Cllr Price won the seat with 356 votes, while a Labour candidate polled 173.
The police investigation was launched after Island Conservatives discovered the name of one of their members had appeared on Wilkins’ nomination form, without her knowledge.
Others — including Wilkins’ sister and brother-in-law — only discovered their names had been used without permission when Isle of Wight County Press chief reporter Emily Pearce contacted them, said Tracy Connors, prosecuting.
Wilkins’ solicitor Barry Arnett said: "It was the first time my client had ever stood as a candidate and in my submission UKIP are also to blame in not advising him properly and adequately in election procedures.
"He had previously completed a legitimate form but it was rejected because, while they were genuine names and signatures, some of the people were not on the electoral roll. That gave him less than 12 hours to get another form completed.
"As a result of my client's representations UKIP has now changed its policy."
He suggested further improvements UKIP should make to prevent the electoral process and people like his client suffering in the future.
He said his client had lost two stone in weight and suffered mental health and financial problems as a result of the case.
"He is a broken man and accepts that is through his own folly," said Mr Arnett.
Sentencing Wilkins, presiding magistrate Jennifer Jennifer Thorpe told him: "You put yourself in a position of trust and abused the electoral process. People whose signatures you used were emotionally affected by your deceit."
Despite a probation report which said his 24/7 on-call business would be badly affected if he had to do community service, Wilkins was ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work.
He was also told to pay £85 costs and a £65 surcharge in addition to his ban from public life, which bars him from standing for public office.
The Isle of Wight County Press front page from April 26, which revealed the extent of the allegations faced by Richard Wilkins.