‘Never in doubt’ - Mansfield mayor and election agent speak out after fraud probe is dropped

CLEARED: Stewart Rickersey
CLEARED: Stewart Rickersey

Mansfield’s mayor and a leading councillor have spoken of their relief after a fraud investigation into their election campaign was finally dropped.

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced the probe into Mrs Allsop’s election campaign, following allegations of overspending, was no longer being pursued.

Mrs Allsop won last year’s mayoral election, but a complaint was put to police shortly afterwards alleging more money was spent on her campaign than legally permitted.

The investigation focused on Mansfield businessman Stewart Rickersey, her agent in the fight for the role.

But Councillor Rickersey, who also won a seat on Mansfield District Council at the election, said he was always “100 per cent” confident he would be cleared.

He said: “I never had an ounce of doubt.

“Everything the police wanted was explained and backed up with physical evidence.

“I’m surprised it took so long, but it is a relief.

“Since we had considerably underspent, I felt confident of the outcome.

“I voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by police, without any legal representation I might add, and I suggested I could send the officers numerous documents to them the following day.

“These all showed the candidate had underspent by more than £1,200.

”I’m disappointed, because there was never a case to answer.”

Mrs Allsop also expressed her relief, although she was never under investigation and was never interviewed by police.

Calls had been made for both her and Coun Rickersey to step down until the case was resolved, but she said: “I expected it, but for my children or grandchildren to have seen all of this was awful.

“But this won’t put me off, quite the opposite in fact, and it won’t overshadow the work we have done.

“The only way they are going to get rid of me is if there’s an election.”

Despite carrying on with her work, Mrs Allsop did step down from her role as a magistrate until the case came to a conclusion.

“I said I wouldn’t do it because of how it looked, I didn’t want to pass judgement on people while this has been going on,” said Mrs Allsop.

Under election guidelines, candidates are under strict rules to spend no more than £6,969.72, with all expenditure declared.

Public documents available from Mansfield Civic Centre show £5,731.32 was spent, including on adverts in newspapers, on websites and banners.

All were examined and there was found to be no discrepancies.

Fiona Morrison, reviewing lawyer at the CPS, said: “Following a careful review, the CPS has concluded no further action will be taken against one individual in relation to allegations of electoral offences in the Mansfield District Council Mayoral Election in 2015.

“This decision was made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. There is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Talking about the phrase “insufficient evidence”, Coun Rickersey said: “I have checked with the CPS and they have advised it is standard terminology.

“It’s CPS civil service ‘speak’ if you like, used in cases like this.

“Separate legal opinion is clear; there was no case to answer – innocent and no charges ever made.”