Northamptonshire Police commissioner candidate forced to quit over arrest

Lee Barron
Lee Barron

The Labour candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections has been forced to quit after it emerged he was arrested during a town centre disturbance 22 years ago.

Football fan Lee Barron was watching England play in the World Cup in a Northampton pub in 1990 when trouble flared. A friend was arrested and Mr Barron, aged 19 at the time, tried to convince police he should be left with him rather than taken into custody.

Instead, Mr Barron himself was arrested for wilful obstruction and received a £20 fine.

The details came to light on Tuesday and, following high-level discussions within the Labour Party today, it was agreed he should step down.

A Labour spokesman said: “We are disappointed to learn from Lee today he has a previous conviction which bars him from standing as a candidate. He has been suspended with immediate effect and we have withdrawn our support pending an investigation.”

The Chron understands Mr Barron informed the Labour Party of the incident before he was selected and was confident he was not contravening election rules as the offence did not carry a potential custodial sentence.

However, it has since emerged that, following last year’s riots in London, a change to sentencing guidelines meant the maximum sentence for the offence was now a spell behind bars.

He said: “I was a young lad at the time. I don’t think society takes a view that if you do something wrong you should be punished for the rest of your life. That night was a sea change for me. From that moment on I pledged I’d never get into trouble again and that’s why I have been a magistrate for 10 years.

“I am sick and tired of seeing election candidates picked from the same old backgrounds. They are all whiter than white, educated at Oxford or Cambridge and have no life experience.

“When I applied to be a candidate for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner I understood that a minor offence committed some 22 years ago, which led to a £20 fine, would not invalidate my candidacy. As somebody who has served, and indeed still is a sitting Magistrate of almost 10 years, I was confident of my position.

“All of us can make mistakes. It is what you do following that, which makes you the person you become. One mistake should not de barr people from seeking public office who can take their life experiences with them particularly if those experiences have changed that person for the better.

“In recent days the origins of my fine and the charge I was under at the time have been deemed to be in breach of the legislation which allows candidates to seek the office of PCC. Despite the fact that this offence was fully declared and widely known, it came as a shock that the current legislation is so stringent that it could impact upon my candidacy.

“As a result of that and in order to protect the integrity of the Labour Party and all other candidates standing as PCC I have today asked the Labour Party to withdraw its endorsement of my candidacy for the post of PCC and to suspend my campaign forthwith.

“If we attempt to fight the current legislation, which I would be prepared to do, it could cloud the issues that are so important as we seek to defend our Police service from the austerity being imposed by this Tory led government.

“I know many have been so supportive during this campaign and I hope I have not let you down. But the bigger picture, the integrity of the Party and the other candidates is more important than me. We must not let this badly pieced together, ill thought out legislation take away from the wider campaign any longer.

“Now we must ensure that the work we have done, does not count for nothing, as we continue to build the Labour Party in our county as a force for good. I will be part of that and I hope you will join us along the way.

“We did not get defeated by democracy, we got crushed by legislation which stands in the way of decent people attempting to serve our communities for the better. One day that legislation will change, it has too. Until then we’ll go on campaigning for a better future.”

Meanwhile, a video has emerged showing Mr Barron, a regional secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, encouraging union members to break the law during a rousing speech at a demonstration in London last year.

During the rally, which can be seen on YouTube , Mr Barron says: “Every time we refuse to cross your picket lines we break the law but we’d rather break the law than break your picket lines any day of the week.”

Mr Barron was selected as the Labour candidate ahead of former police officer Mike Caseman-Jones.

At one stage he was facing having to quit his role as a magistrate during the campaign but a last minute U-turn saw the rules change, allowing him to remain in post unless he won the election, at which point he would have to stand down.

In other parts of the country, a candidate had to step down from the commissioner race because of an offence he committed 47 years ago as a 14-year-old while another had to quit after it emerged he had been fined £5 as a 13-year-old.

It remains unclear whether Labour will be allowed to stand a replacement candidate just two weeks before polling day.

And further confusion emerged tonight when it became apparent that the final date and time for withdrawal of candidature for the election was noon on the 16th working day before polling day, October 24.

None of the five candidates who submitted nominations withdrew within the statutory deadline therefore all can still technically stand for the election on November 15.