A former Tory MP who defected to Ukip has been found guilty of election fraud.
Bob Spink, who served as Tory MP for Castle Point in Essex for five years before defecting to Ukip in 2008, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of four counts of submitting false signatures on nomination forms.
Spink showed no emotion as the jury foreman returned majority verdicts on all four counts he faced after nearly 13 hours of deliberation. He will be sentenced in the new year.
The court heard that Spink, 69, of Benfleet, Essex, tricked elderly constituents into signing electoral forms backing local UKIP candidates.
He was standing for the role of Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner but he ‘charmed’ people on doorsteps to sign what they thought was a form saying he had canvassed them.
But in fact it was a nomination form for several Ukip candidates in the local council elections.
Ukip electoral agent James Parkin, 41, of Canvey Island, was found guilty of two of the charges by the jury and cleared of three other counts, having previously admitted two counts at an earlier hearing.
Earlier in the trial, one count against each defendant was dropped by the prosecution.
Parkin changed the names and signatures of two householders on a nomination form when he realised they were not on the electoral role.
Outlining the case, prosecutor Tom Nicholson said there was ‘no issue’ with the 100 signatures obtained by Spink for him to stand as a candidate in the PCC election, during which the defendant was narrowly beaten by a Tory rival.
But he quoted local residents, whose signatures appeared on nomination forms apparently backing Parkin as a Ukip local election candidate, who said Spink and another man believed to be Parkin failed ‘in various ways to explain properly what they were asking residents to sign’.
Another said Spink was canvassing for the PCC role and was unaware the form referred to the local elections, the court heard.
A third signatory said there was ‘no talk’ about the local elections or any local candidate.
Both men were released on bail.
Zoe Martin, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Bob Spink and James Parkin deliberately misled voters in order to fraudulently secure signatures on nomination forms.
‘They did this through either lying or being deliberately vague with voters, or in James Parkin’s case, by simply forging signatures by taking names from the electoral register.
‘As a former MP, residents could recognise Spink and were more willing to engage with him. But he ultimately betrayed their trust by using their signatures for his own purposes that they had not been made aware of and had not agreed to.
‘Evidence put forward by the CPS showed that Spink had misled voters when he canvassed them, resulting in the guilty verdicts returned by the jury.’
They will appear at Basildon Crown Court on January 5 for their sentencing.