Should a £5 fine in 1966 stop this man being a police chief? (…a job that’s open to ‘Two Jabs’ Prescott)
- Bob Ashford was just 13 when the incident happened over 40 years ago
- He was living on a council estate at the time and felt too ‘frightened’ to leave
- ‘I intend to fight this ruling to the highest level,’ says the Labour candidate
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A candidate has criticised 'ridiculous' rules that bar him from standing for election as a police commissioner because he was fined £5 for two minor offences 46 years ago when he was just 13.
Bob Ashford, a father-of-four, who has Whitehall security clearance, stepped down from his £90,000-a-year job as director of strategy for the Youth Justice Board partly to run for the role.
But he has had to step down as Labour candidate from the contest to become Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Avon and Somerset after the Home Office and Electoral Commission ruled that the way the law was drafted means there is no room for manoeuvre, even though his conviction would be considered 'spent' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
Unable to escape his past: Bob Ashford holds a photo of himself aged 13
In the running: John Prescott is also a candidate
However, there is no bar on police being recruited or keeping their jobs if they have a minor conviction.
Meanwhile, a string of MPs who were heavily criticised during the expenses scandal continue to be free to stand in the November elections across the country.
John Prescott, who earned the nickname Two Jabs when he thumped a protester during the 2001 election campaign but was never charged, is also a candidate.
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PCCs will have the power to set priorities for chief constables and decide their local force's budget.
The rules had already led the Falklands veteran Simon Weston OBE to pull out because he feared that his £30 fine at the age of 14 for being a passenger in a stolen car would have disqualified him.
Home Secretary Theresa May then said the rules were not meant to cover such historic convictions.
Inspiring career: Mr Weston, pictured with sons Stuart (on the right), James and grandson Zach, wanted to make a contribution and stop ageing politicians taking commissioner roles
But Mr Ashford has now been told that, because he was convicted in 1966 of trespass on the railway and possession of an offensive weapon, he would also be forced to withdraw.
Labour is now canvassing its other candidates to check that none have an undisclosed juvenile conviction.
Last night, Mr Ashford, of Frome, Somerset, said the legislation was 'absolutely ridiculous', adding: 'This was a flawed policy idea from the beginning and it's now proving to be absolutely and fatally flawed.'
He said he had received hundreds of emails of support, and would be seeking legal advice on whether there were grounds for him to challenge the legislation.
In a second development, it emerged magistrates will also be banned from standing.
The Home Office had intended to ban only judges but Lord Justice Goldring, the senior presiding judge in England and Wales, has issued guidance that, in order to protect judicial independence, magistrates would have to quit the bench just to take part in the contest.
This is despite the fact that the police authorities which are being replaced by elected commissioners have long had magistrates among their membership.
The former Welsh Guardsman suffered horrific burns to 46 per cent of his body during the Falklands conflict in 1982.
As a teenager he was arrested when he was in a stolen car with two or three other males aged between 18 and 27.
Mr Weston always said he was not aware the care was stolen, but on advice, pleased guilty at the subsequent trial.
He was fined £30 and put on probation for three months.
MR ASHFORD’S STATEMENT ON HIS WEBSITE
‘ 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.
‘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.
‘It was only when I qualified as a social worker and started applying for jobs that I realised I would have to disclose this previous offence. ‘
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