Police tsar candidate’s past comes back to haunt him

County Councillor Alan Charles
County Councillor Alan Charles
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A LABOUR PARTY candidate for police and crime commissioner (PCC) has announced he will be stepping down because of a criminal offence he committed nearly 50 years ago, when he was just 14.

Alan Charles, who has been a Derbyshire councillor for more than 20 years and vice chair of the region’s police authority, said rules barred him from standing for the post because he received a conditional discharge for the “minor” crime.

He said in a statement: “I have today taken the difficult decision to stand down as the Labour Party candidate for police and crime commissioner for Derbyshire.

“The Labour Party has only now received clarification from the Home Office and the Electoral Commission that juvenile convictions for imprisonable offences will bar people from becoming a police and crime commissioner.

“Despite serving as a councillor for over 20 years and as vice Chair of Derbyshire Police Authority, I have received confirmation that a minor criminal offence I committed as a 14-year-old around 47 years ago, for which I was given a year’s conditional discharge, has now barred me from standing for the PCC post.”

Mr Charles did not release any details of the incident for which he was convicted. His decision follows that of Labour’s Bob Ashford, who announced earlier this week that he would be forced to step down as a candidate because he was fined £5 for offences he committed 46 years ago when just 13.

Mr Ashford, a former director of strategy at the Youth Justice Board who was standing as the Labour PCC for Avon and Somerset, said the rules surrounding the elections were “flawed” and an “infringement of the rights of young people”.

He admitted two offences in 1966 when he was a juvenile over an incident regarding an airgun being fired at tin cans by a group of boys. He claims he did not touch the weapon but was told to plead guilty to two charges.

Falklands War veteran Simon Weston pulled out of standing for the job in South Wales after questions were raised over his eligibility. Mr Weston tweeted that he was disillusioned with the race as it was too political and not serving the people.

But a criminal conviction when he was 14 had also drawn Mr Weston’s candidacy into question.

Police and crime commissioners will be elected in 41 areas across England and Wales on November 15.

Jon Collins, deputy director of the Police Foundation, an independent policing think-tank, said news that Mr Charles was withdrawing from the elections was “extremely disappointing”.

He said in a statement: “It surely cannot be right that a minor offence committed nearly 50 years ago should prevent an otherwise qualified candidate from standing for election as a Police and Crime Commissioner.

“There is hardly a surfeit of capable candidates putting themselves forward for these elections and the law that bars anybody who has committed an imprisonable offence from being a Police and Crime Commissioner is misguided and unfair.

“An old conviction that would not prevent somebody from becoming Prime Minister or Home Secretary should not stop them standing for election as a Police and Crime Commissioner.

“It would then be up to the public to decide whether or not it is relevant.

“It is too late to correct this unfortunate situation ahead of November’s election without causing further chaos. However, all political parties should admit that they got this wrong and commit to ensuring that this unfair piece of legislation is changed in time for the next round of Police and Crime Commissioner elections.”