Wigan Council hopeful reports police to watchdog

A local election candidate has blasted police after they said they would not be taking his allegations of suffering harassment on the campaign trail any further.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 12:03 pm
Michael Moulding

Greater Manchester Police said it had looked into Michael Moulding’s claims of breaches of electoral law but decided it did not meet the criminal threshold and there were insufficient grounds to proceed.

Mr Moulding, who stood as the Independent Network candidate in Ashton, says he will now take the police’s handling of the matter, which he described as “appalling”, to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

He told police he believed there had been a breach of section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which forbids statements known to be false being circulated about people running for public office.

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He said he remained in no doubt that an offence took place and also said he was unhappy with the way police had handled a separate complaint he made about how officers handled the inquiry.

In a statement the force said: “On Sunday April 14 2019, police received a report of electoral fraud alleged to have taken place prior to the local elections in Wigan. This was reviewed by GMP’s lead for electoral crime and deemed that it did not meet the evidential threshold, with the result that no further action would be taken.

“A crime for malicious communications was subsequently investigated, however there was insufficient evidence to proceed and the informant was updated as such. A complaint was later made to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch who referred the matter back the Wigan district. This has now been dealt with via local resolution.”

But Mr Moulding said: “GMP has handled this case appallingly. I don’t agree the criminal threshold hasn’t been met, clear breaches of section 106 occurred during the Ashton ward election.

“When you make a false allegation that is completely untrue that is not, as GMP claimed to me at one point, an opinion, it is defamation. When you do that to a candidate during an election campaign it is an offence.

“GMP are a lot of things but they can’t control the English language. It’s their job to uphold electoral law and they have failed to do so. It’s absolutely diabolical.

“I’m going to refer these matters to the IOPC.

“I’m not in the business of bashing the police for the sake of it. They have a difficult job but people shouldn’t be afraid to criticise them if they deserve it, and they do deserve criticism.”