Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Conservative guilty of vote fraud

John Hall
John Hall was arrested 10 days before the 2007 elections

A Conservative activist accused of trying to rig an election in Hampshire has been convicted of a charge of voting fraud.

But John Hall, of Coriander Way, Whiteley, was cleared of a further six charges at Guildford Crown Court.

He was accused of asking several people to fill in a form which, unbeknown to them, was a proxy vote for himself.

Hall, 67, was arrested 10 days before the 2007 Winchester City Council elections. He has been fined 1,000.

Guildford Crown Court heard in police interviews Mr Hall said he had "acted with naivety".

When asked about the possibility he had not fully explained the procedure of voting by proxy, he replied: "As far as I am aware, the people I spoke with were totally aware of the circumstances and they saw the name and address of the person who was going to vote for them."

Folders found

When it was put to the Conservative activist that some of the people named on the forms did not know the person specified as their proxy voter, he told police: "Perhaps it was a little bit of naivety on my part."

The charge he was convicted of concerned a first-time voter, who he had never met. On the proxy form he used he wrote that the voter was away on holiday at the time.

The jury was told that when police searched his home they found folders containing applications for proxy votes.

The court has heard Hall was an active campaigner.

There was intense rivalry in the Whiteley ward between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, where just a handful of votes could have changed control of the council.

At the election for Winchester City Council, the Conservatives retained power with 29 seats, ahead of the Liberal Democrats with 23 seats, four independents and one Labour representative.

Liz Leffman, Liberal Democrat prospective MP for Meon Valley, said: "The democratic process has been undermined by John Hall's actions."

No one at the Winchester branch of the Conservative Party was available to comment.

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SEE ALSO
Activist cleared of three charges
17 Dec 08 |  Hampshire
Election accused 'acted naively'
16 Dec 08 |  Hampshire
Activist 'tried to rig election'
15 Dec 08 |  Hampshire

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