'Devastated' ex-councillor admits election fraud

PUBLISHED: 11:48 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 14 November 2019

David Pope leaving King's Lynn magistrates court after admitting electoral fraud  Picture: Chris Bishop

David Pope leaving King's Lynn magistrates court after admitting electoral fraud Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

A former councillor's political career is in ruins after he admitted election fraud.

David Pope, 75, appeared before King's Lynn magistrates on Thursday, charged with causing an incorrect signature to be furnished to a returning officer for use in an election.

When asked how he would plead Pope, of Small Lode, Upwell, answered: "Guilty."

Rachael Taylor, prosecuting, said Pope stood as an independent candidate for the Upwell and Delph ward in West Norfolk council's May 2 election.

She said on March 20, he handed in nomination papers signed by a proposer, seconder and eight assenting voters. Pope later won the seat, along with a fellow independent.

But Miss Taylor said when Derek Gooch, one of the assentors, was spoken to by police, he said he had not signed the papers.

In interview, Pope said when he called to see Mr Gooch, he was out so his son Simon signed on his behalf.

Miss Taylor said when officers spoke to Mr Gooch Jnr, he said he could not remember whether he had signed or not.

Jonathan Eales, for Pope, said he had served as a borough councillor for 16 years, a parish councillor for 25 and served on six drainage boards.

"He is an upstanding member of his local community, where he has lived all his life," he said. "He is a pillar of society."

Mr Eales said Pope had been a Conservative councillor for 15 years before standing as an independent after being deselected.

"He'd clearly ruffled some feathers within the local Conservative Party," he added.

Mr Eales said Pope had tried to contact Mr Gooch Snr to check he was happy for his son to sign on his behalf, but when he called at his house he was out.

He added the consequences of his conviction would be "unbelievably severe" for his client.

"Instead of ending his political career in a satisfactory manner, he's had to resign," he said. "He's resigned from the borough, the parish and every office he holds and he's in disgrace. It's tragic."

Chair of the bench Pat Isbill said it was a serious and unusual offence. She told Pope he would be disqualified from holding public office for five years, fined £3,300 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £181 and costs of £85.

Outside court, Pope said: "This has been going on for a week or two and I just wanted to get it over with. I'm devastated.

"For a start there's going to be a big hole in my life knowing what I'm going to do."

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