A CANDIDATE to be Derbyshire’s first police commissioner has offered sympathy to his rival, who has withdrawn from the race because of a teenage criminal conviction.
Labour’s Alan Charles pulled out of the running yesterday after it was confirmed the offence would prevent him from taking on the role.
Tory candidate Simon Spencer said, if he was elected, he would look at how juvenile convictions could be “turned around” to help people who had committed very minor crimes.
But he felt that Mr Charles’ decision was the correct one.
He said: “Although I am not aware of the exact background to the circumstances behind what led to Alan stepping down, I do have a certain amount of sympathy with him.
“I think there is an argument for young people, who in their early years make a mistake, to be given another chance to turn their lives around.”
Mr Charles yesterday stepped down after the Labour Party received clarification from the Home Office and the Electoral Commission that juvenile convictions for imprisonable offences would bar people from becoming a commissioner.
Mr Charles revealed that he had a criminal conviction dating back 47 years to when he was 14 years old – but could not remember what the conviction was for.
The Labour Party is now expected to reveal who its new candidate will be on Monday. Derby councillor Hardyal Dhindsa, who was beaten by Mr Charles to become the party’s original candidate, is believed to be in the running.
Whoever is named will fight a head-to-head battle with Mr Spencer for the £75,000-a-year role.
The public in Derbyshire will vote in its first police and crime commissioner on November 15. Whoever wins will have the power to hold the force to account and set the council tax precept.
Mr Charles said he felt “devastated” at making the decision to stand down.
He said: “I don’t not want to reveal the exact nature of the offence but suffice to say I was 14 at the time, which means it happened 47 years ago. It dates back to when I lived in Ealing in London and I do not even remember what the exact charge was. I have tried to find out by speaking to the magistrates’ court but they cannot find any record of it. It was the sort of offence that these days would be dealt with through restorative justice and not leave a young teenager with a criminal record.
“You can be Prime Minster, the Home Secretary and even the Chief Constable and have a criminal record and yet not in this new role.”
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that anyone with a criminal record would not be allowed to stand to become a commissioner.
Last week, Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy called the legislation “draconian” because party colleague Bob Ashford was barred from being a candidate in Avon and Somerset because of a crime committed when he was 13.
The Home Office spokesman said: “The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 disqualifies a person from standing for election as a PCC if they have at any time been convicted of an offence for which a person could be sent to prison; whether or not they themselves were sent to prison.
“This high standard was set with cross-party agreement because PCCs will hold police forces, whose duty is to uphold the law, to account.”