One mistake overshadowed life of public service
PUBLISHED: 09:44 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:33 21 November 2019
A former councillor hopes people will remember the good things he achieved over decades of serving his community, not the error of judgement which saw him banned from public office.
David Pope represented the Upwell and Delph ward on West Norfolk council before being charged with electoral fraud.
When he appeared in court, the 75-year-old was banned from standing for public office for five years and ordered to pay £3,566 in fines and costs after he admitted using a false signature on his nomination papers for the May 2019 election.
King's Lynn magistrates heard he went to visit a man he hoped would sign as an assentor. But the man was out and his son signed on his behalf, the court was told on November 14.
A week after the hearing Mr Pope of Small Lode, Upwell, said: "Someone did forge the signature, there's no escaping that.
"People thought it must have been me, I feel blamed for something I did not do.
Mr Pope said he had gone to see the man twice to check he was happy.
He added: "He had plenty of time to say to me: 'David I'm not supporting your nomination' and I would have said OK, fair enough and gone down the road to get some more."
Before resigning Mr Pope had been a borough councillor for 16 years and a parish councillor for 25.
"I do really feel disappointed," he said. "I've lived and worked in Upwell all my life. I went to school here, everything I do is in Upwell."
Mr Pope said he was proud of the projects he has been involved in such as securing £100,000 funding for a new car park at Upwell Health Centre and hopes to move on from the situation.
The father-of-two said: "I've had a lot of support both on social media and locally. People can't believe this has happened.
"If I was to do it through devious means you'd understand it but I didn't need to do it. I had enough support.
"I can't get my name cleared and that is going to be with me for life.
"It has overshadowed what I've done, but perhaps people will remember all the good things I've done instead of this misdemeanour and remember my involvement in the village.
"When my ban time is up I shan't really have the interest in doing it then.
"My ban is lifted in five years and the next election will be two and a half years later, I will be knuckling into 83 years old when that happens so physically I wouldn't be able to do it.
"I'm sorry for what has happened and it's obviously going to have an affect on how I move forward and I shall miss all the camaraderie with my electorate as well as the contact.
"I'm trying to get back to being a normal person, now I can accompany my wife to places.
"When she heard I had to pack up, she was over the moon. Not because of what had happened but because she's happy I have more time on my hands."