30 Oct 2012

Probe Michael Mates over alleged ‘fraud’, rival urges Hants police

An independent candidate for police commissioner in Hampshire today asked the local chief constable to investigate whether Michael Mates, the rival Conservative candidate in next month’s PCC election, has committed what he claims is “fraud”.Don Jerrard, a former City lawyer who is standing as “justice and anti-corruption” candidate in the election in Hampshire, has written to Alex Marshall, the chief constable of the area, and accused Mr Mates of breaching the 2006 Fraud Act by adding his name to the electoral register at a house in Winchester, Hampshire. 

Jerrard claims Mr Mates wasn’t properly resident at the address in the way required by law.

All candidates for the PCC posts have to be resident in the areas in which they are seeking election.  These rules are much tougher than for parliamentary elections, where there are no residency requirements.  Mr Mates insists that he is eligible to stand in the Hampshire contest.
The episode raises fascinating constitutional issues, as the role of the new police and crime commissioners is to oversee the work of the local chief constable. 

So the Hampshire chief constable is being asked by Don Jerrard to investigate the activities of a man who may soon himself be overseeing his work, and could soon have the power to sack Mr Marshall or his successor (Mr Marshall is due to leave his post in the next few months to run the new National College of Policing).  
Until recently, and for many years during his time as a Hampshire MP, Michael Mates was actually on the electoral register at his home near Chichester, in the neighbouring county of West Sussex.  

In April of this year Mates and his wife switched their registration from West Sussex to a house in Winchester which is owned by a retired businessmen, Andrew Tibbits, and his wife.   
In his letter to the chief constable Jerrard alleges Michael Mates”made a false representation on 24 April 2012 by implying that he had moved to an address in Winchester so that he could be on the electoral roll in Hampshire in order to satisfy one of the requirements to be a candidate. 

He adds: “In my opinion that will constitute an offence under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006.”
Don Jerrard is a retired London partner with Baker & Mackenzie, one of the world’s biggest law firms.  Mr Jerrard alleges in his letter:
“In an attempt to comply with the requirement that he should be on the electoral roll in Hampshire Mr Mates entered into an arrangement with a married couple that Mr and Mrs Mates might rent some rooms in their large house in Winchester. 

“I was told that this couple have sometimes let these rooms out to students studying in Winchester. 

“On that basis Mr and Mrs Mates applied to go onto the electoral roll in Winchester, and to be taken off the electoral roll in Chichester.  However, none of the neighbours of the house in Winchester report ever having seen Mr Mates and in practice he has continued to live at his house in West Sussex.”
Gerrard continues:
“I believe that Mr Mates has dishonestly made a false representation by saying that he had moved to and was resident at the house in Winchester, intending, by making the representation, to make a gain for himself, by being a candidate for a job paying £85,000 per annum, and also causing loss to another potential candidate.”
Mr Jerrard has asked the chief constable to appoint a senior investigating officer to meet him in order to examine the matter further.
A spokeswoman for Hampshire police told me this evening: “If, or when, we do see the letter we will take a look at the contents and take appropriate action which may or may not include referring it to the police area returning officer [PARO] who overseas the police and crime commissioner election. 

“Should a police investigation be required we have arrangements in place with neighbouring police forces.”
A spokesman for Michael Mates, who  denies any wrongdoing, told me tonight: “The Police Area Returning Officer for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Mark Heath, and the local electoral registration officer in Winchester have both confirmed Michael Mates’s eligibility for this election.”
In September a friend of Michael Mates told the Sunday Express:
“He has a tenancy arrangement with Mr Tibbits whom he hadn’t met before. That’s where he is more and more now because he is flat-out trying to get himself elected.”
When asked last month by the Sunday Express about how often Mr Mates was at the Winchester address, his friend reportedly replied: “It varies… he comes and goes as one does when one’s busy.  He tends to arrive late in the evening, having done meetings and the things one does in an election, and tends to leave after an early breakfast.”

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