Published: 13:40, 13 March 2017
A disgraced far-right activist has been jailed today for cheating the election system by submitting fraudulent nomination forms.
English Democrats regional leader Steven Uncles used fictitious names such as Anna Cleves - a play on the name of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, who lived in Dartford - and Rachelle Stevens - referred to by a judge as “the lady from S Club 7”.
The 53-year-old local politician, who has since resigned from the post, was convicted last month of seven charges of using a false instrument with intent and two of causing or permitting a false statement to be included in a nomination form.
He was acquitted of causing or permitting the false signature of an elector to be included in a nomination form.
Jailing him for seven months, Judge Philip Statman said: “At the heart of this case one sees the situation where nomination forms have been riddled with inaccuracy or simple downright untruths.
“I want to make it absolutely clear to you this was not some form of April Fools joke. This was you acting well fine in the knowledge that what you were doing was wrong and unlawful.
“I have had the opportunity to see the manner in which during the investigation and trial you trivialised that which had occurred.
“These were acts of criminality that hit at the heart of the democratic process.”
As a result of the convictions Uncles, of Shears Close, Wilmington, has been disqualified from standing for office for five years. He was ordered to pay £1,000 prosecution costs.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Uncles, who worked for a Government work and health programme in the north of England, either put up candidates for election who did not exist, or real people who had not signed the relevant nomination forms.
Prosecutor Mark Weekes said Uncles dishonestly tampered with the system in the local county elections held in May 2013.
“As a consequence, the machinery of the election was materially effected,” he said.
“The result was that electors who chose their candidate on the basis they could trust the system wasted their vote.”
Uncles submitted the nomination forms for candidates to become English Democrat councillors
"The public as a whole must have confidence in the electoral system which you have so seriously undermined" - Judge Philip Statman
The system was open to abuse, as it was all too easy to submit people who did not exist, said Mr Weekes.
“That situation was exploited by Mr Uncles in those local elections,” he added. “He submitted a total of seven nomination forms that were fraudulent.”
Uncles was jailed for a further 14 days for breaching his bail by not appearing on the first day of his trial. Sixteen days on a tagged curfew will count towards his sentence.
Judge Statman said Uncles was an experienced electoral election campaigner with a considerable knowledge and understanding of the weaknesses that existed in the system, particularly the lack of power returning officers had when scrutinising election papers submitted on behalf of candidates.
“The process is historic,” he said. “It is outdated, it is subject to abuse and desperately in need of reform.”
It was accepted that Uncles’ dishonesty did not affect election results and there was no financial gain.
“Your motivation was clear,” said the judge, who described Uncles as highly intelligent. “You committed this offence to highlight and give publicity to the party, of which you were a leading member.
“The more candidates you put up at local elections, the greater the publicity that is attached to the aims and policies of the English Democrats. You have subverted the democratic process.”
Two names falsely put forward were those of a couple in their 80s.
“The last thing they would ever have considered would be standing in an election,” said Judge Statman.
The first hint of remorse he had shown was to admit breaching his bail.
“You had an absolute right to seek a trial by jury,” he continued. “That is part of the democratic process. That same democratic process has by way of the verdicts of this jury convicted you of those crimes now.”
Uncles “led this court a merry dance” by being in the north of England and delaying the trial when he should have been at court.
“Great expense was done to the public purse as a result. It seems to me you were as obstructive as you could be until you realised your efforts to evade justice were not going anywhere.
“It seems to me, looking at the offences, there is only one way of dealing with you and that is to send you to prison.
“I bear in mind you are not going to do this again, but the public as a whole must have confidence in the electoral system which you have so seriously undermined.”