Why I was barred from being police commissioner candidate for 1966 boyhood mistake
A candidate for police commissioner forced to quit the race has spoken of his plans to fight the “bad and discriminatory law” that saw him ejected over a minor offence committed in 1966 – when he was 13.
Bob Ashford, Labour’s candidate for the Avon and Somerset area, yesterday explained the convictions and said he had always declared them.
The case follows doubts raised over Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who was running in South Wales, as when aged 14 he was convicted for being a passenger in a stolen car.
Mr Ashford said that in 1966, when he was 13 and living on a Bristol council estate, he went to a railway embankment with a group of children he knew from school.
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“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 of what might happen at school.”
The police arrived, he went to court charged with trespass on the railway and possession of an offensive weapon, pleaded guilty and was fined £2 and 10 shillings on both counts.
Mr Ashford later became a social worker, and then director of strategy at the Youth Offending Team, always declaring the conviction.
“It had never occurred to me that an offence committed 46 years ago and which would now almost certainly be dealt with without going to court would bar me at all,” he said.
But Labour had received clarification from the Home Office and the Electoral Commission that youth convictions for imprisonable offences would bar people from becoming a PCC.
Mr Ashford, who was born in Bristol and now lives in Frome, said the legislation was “absolutely flawed” and pledged to fight the ruling.
Yesterday he received support, with TV political reporter Michael Crick saying it seemed “incredibly harsh”, adding that ministers must be regretting the “super strict rule”.
Mr Ashford, said: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”