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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 15:32 GMT
MP's aide given forgery caution
A cabinet minister's aide has been cautioned for forging a prospective councillor's signature, a court heard.

Barrie Grunewald, of Manchester, who works for Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, admitted signing an expenses form for Stuart Hughes.

Mr Hughes was campaigning to be a councillor in St Helens, Merseyside, in the 2006 local elections.

The prosecution offered no evidence at Liverpool Crown Court and said Grunewald had now been cautioned.

Had he not given me permission, I would not have done it. On that basis, I didn't think there was anything wrong
Barrie Grunewald

The court heard that Mr Hughes and Grunewald, 30, of Levenhsulme, had to sign the form to ensure it was returned in time for an election deadline.

But the council's returning officer spotted a discrepancy and reported it.

In December, Grunewald pleaded not guilty to forgery and his trial was scheduled for Monday.

But on Thursday, he accepted a police caution, Elizabeth Reid, prosecuting, said.

However, a formal verdict of not guilty to forgery was recorded by the judge Ian Trigger.

'Express permission'

Miss Reid said: "Mr Hughes couldn't get to sign the form and he says Mr Grunewald suggested he could sign it himself and he agreed to that suggestion.

"The form was submitted with the express permission of Mr Hughes."

She added: "The prosecution would have proceeded with the trial if Mr Grunewald hadn't accepted the caution."

Speaking outside court, Grunewald described the offence as an "admin error".

He said: "Had he not given me permission, I would not have done it.

"On that basis, I didn't think there was anything wrong doing that.

"There's no getting away from the fact I did it but with his full permission."

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