Police Commissioner candidate forced to step down - because of offence in 1966
Bob Ashford - the Labour candidate in the running to become Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner - has been forced to step down.
He has been told that a criminal offence he committed as a 13-year-old in 1966, which saw him being fined £5, bars him from standing for the post.
In a statement released this morning, Mr Ashford reveals the details of his misdemeanor and says he is "unhappy" that he has to step down.
Mr Ashford, who lives in Frome, said: "These are the details of the offence. At the time I was 13 years of age in 1966 and living on a council estate in Bristol.
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"I had no previous involvement with the police and came from a good and caring family. I remember very well the knock on the door from a group of lads I knew from school.
"They persuaded me to go out with them and I felt I had little choice. I also knew from what they said that if I refused they could make my life difficult at school.
"We went to the railway embankment and I felt very uncomfortable about this. One of the lads pulled out an air gun and started shooting at cans.
"I never touched the air gun and felt unable to leave, as I was frightened at what might happen at school.
"A goods train passed and presumably the guard reported our presence to the police who arrived a short time later. The lads with the air gun ran away whilst I and two others froze and were arrested.
"My next memory is of the police coming to my house and talking to my parents in a separate room. The police never questioned me to my knowledge.
"I then went to court and was to the best of my knowledge charged with trespass on the railway and possession of an offensive weapon. I was told to plead guilty to the two charges even though I had never touched the air gun.
"I was fined £2 and 10 shillings on both counts. Both of these offences are to the best of my knowledge 'imprisonable' offences.
"I carried on at school, attended University and put the offence behind me. I have never been convicted of any other offence."
He said that although, these days, it would be unlikely to have been a case that would have gone to court, he could no longer stand as the Labour party candidate for the new post.
The Home Office and the Electoral Commission have confirmed that youth convictions for imprisonable offences will bar people from becoming a police and crime commissioner.
“As you might imagine I am both unhappy with the circumstances which have led to this position and apologetic to all those supporters who have backed my campaign for a position I felt passionate about and for which I believed I was well qualified," he said.
“I have spent my entire life working with young people who have been disadvantaged by their family or social environments firstly as a social worker and for the past 15 years in the field of youth justice.
"In doing so I have had a rewarding career which has led to me working with ministers and other agencies to create national programmes designed to improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged young people and deprived communities.
"A basic foundation of that work, underpinned by legislation and societal norms, is the belief that all young people have worth and the ability to reform and lead productive and valuable lives as I have done.
"It is deeply and bitterly ironic that I now find myself in a position where my prospective career and my work to date is to be overshadowed by an event which occurred 46 years ago and a piece of legislation which completely undermines those basic human rights.
“The principles here go way beyond those relating to the post of Police and Crime Commissioner and are an infringement of the human rights of young people. Young people with criminal records are continually and additionally disadvantaged by the need to declare these convictions for even the most trivial of offences as they mature and become adults.
"This acts as a bar to employment and becoming responsible and productive members of society. Are we to forever brand young people as offenders regardless of their wish to reform?
"Whilst stepping down I intend to fight this ruling to the highest level, not just because of the impact this has had on myself but because this and other legislation which penalises and stigmatises children and young people who offend is fundamentally bad and discriminatory law.
“In terms of the campaign for PCC I will offer my full support to the new Labour Party candidate.”
The newly-elected commissioner will set the constabulary's budget and the council tax precept to pay for policing. The chief constable, Colin Port, will answer to him.
Police and crime commissioners will be elected in 41 areas across England and Wales on November 15.