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A Conservative Party Election Agent has been allowed to avoid jail after being convicted of 16 counts of electoral fraud yesterday at Southwark Crown Court in London.
In the run-up to the 2018 Local Elections, Diana Danescu, 28, falsely posed as both Labour and Green Party affiliates in an attempt to deceive voters in Hackney into nominating Tory candidates for inclusion on the ballot.
In order to be included on the ballot for local elections, candidates must be able to amass the official endorsement of at least 10 local voters and then submit the forms to the local returning officer.
Support for the Conservative Party is traditionally extremely limited in the area – with both Hackney constituencies currently occupied by Labour MPs with in excess of 70% of the vote.
At the time, Danescu was working for Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as a Campaign Manager, acting as an election agent for 29 Tory nominees. She was also standing to be a Conservative councillor in the Chadwell ward of Redbridge.
Danescu’s deception was finally exposed after a resident in Hackney noticed that her and her husband’s names were listed on the Council website as assentors for three Tory nominees – at which point a complaint was sent to the council, who then passed it on to for the police to investigate.
The Metropolitan Police’s Special Enquiry Team found that Danescu had submitted forms containing the names and signatures of voters who had either been conned into believing they were endorsing a candidate from a different party, or whose name had been fraudulently matched to the signature of somebody else.
Following a 5-week trial that included some 32 prosecution witnesses, the judge said that Danescu had shown “little remorse” for her crimes, and that her actions were viewed “extremely seriously by the courts”.
However, after being convicted of a total of 16 offences of causing or permitting a false signature to be included on a nomination form, the Tory official was allowed to walk free with a 6-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, as well as being made to complete 200 hours of Community Service and contribute £2,000 towards court costs.
In sentencing Danescu, Judge Jeffrey Pegden said:
“From December 2017 you were employed as a campaign manager for the Conservative party.
“In late winter and spring of 2018, you also acted as a Conservative election agent for the south part of the local borough of Hackney.
“Support for the Conservative Party was very low but the party did want to ensure that the party was represented in every constituency.
“Your job was to deliver the nomination forms for the candidates.
“You had to collect something like 300 signatures, and it is those signatures which you obtained by wholly misleading the elector about what the form was for, by saying it was for the Green Party or Labour Party or by actually falsifying the signatures of registered electors.”
Judge Pegden continued:
“Your crime amounted to misleading assentors as to the purpose of the nomination forms you were presenting to them and also falsifying signatures.
“The contamination and manipulation of the electoral system in this country whether it is on a local or national level, is viewed extremely seriously by the courts.
“The courts must ensure that a true vote, or indeed in this case, a true ascension has been given at the heart of the democratic process.
“Your actions had nothing to do with a lack of training, you are an educated and highly intelligent woman.
“It seems you still blame a lack of training, and indeed show little remorse for your actions.
“It is right to say none had a chance to be elected, there was not material gain to the Conservative Party apart from getting full ballot papers – which they wanted.
“You were driven by the belief that you would look capable and efficient in the eyes of your masters.
“Your culpability caused the assentors or purported signatories outrage.
“That outrage lays right at the heart of your case.”
Speaking after Danescu had been sentenced, DC Jim Morrison from the MPS Special Enquiry Team said:
“Diana Danescu deliberately misled the electors of Hackney in the run up to the local government elections in May 2018.
“In addition, she submitted names of electors who had not signed the nomination papers.
“The Metropolitan Police is committed to maintaining the integrity of the democratic process. I would like to thank people living and working in Hackney who came forward and provided evidence at the trial.”
Responding to the news on Twitter, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, quipped:
“Wow! And the Tory party nationally like to imply that only Labour supporters engage in electoral fraud.”
Wow! And the Tory party nationally like to imply that only Labour supporters engage in electoral fraud.
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) October 16, 2020