Published: 10:00, 09 February 2017
English Democrats regional leader Steven Uncles is to be tried in his absence today on election fraud charges.
A jury of eight men and four women was told yesterday the dock at Maidstone Crown Court was empty and there was only a prosecution lawyer present.
“Mr Uncles is not present, nor is anybody here to represent him,” said Judge Philip Statman. “The fact that the dock is empty and Mr Uncles is neither here nor legally represented, can I immediately direct you, is irrelevant.
“It is absolutely irrelevant as to why he is not here or legally represented. The fact he is not here doesn’t provide any support whatsoever for the prosecution case brought against him.
“In due course the 12 of you will focus on the Crown’s case. It is the prosecution who brings this case and the prosecution who must prove it.
“The standard of proof is a very high one. You must be sure before you can convict Mr Uncles in relation to any of the allegations he faces.”
The jurors, with two reserves, were shown a picture of Uncles, 50, of Shears Close, Wilmington, to make sure none of them recognised him.
The judge said any prospective jurors who worked for the election departments of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Sevenoaks District Council or Dartford Borough Council would be excluded.
Judge Statman said he would require jurors to “give up their valuable time” potentially until February 24. The trial will start today but the court will not sit next week.
“There is nothing unusual about that whatsoever,” he stressed. “It is to ensure witnesses can give evidence in the proper manner. I am asking you to go the extra mile for us.”
Uncles, who heads up the party in the south east, denies seven charges of using a false instrument with intent and three of causing or permitting a false statement to be included in a nomination form in April 2013.
He is alleged to have submitted seven false candidate forms in the names Paul Cooper, Teresa Cannon, Dianne Cooper, Anna Cleves, Kenneth Head, Doreen Head and Rachelle Stevens.
The charges relate to local government elections in May 2013.
The judge told jurors the charges “may seem like gobbledygook” at the moment, but at the end of the trial they would be given written directions to assist them.