Judge gavel, photo Brian Turner (Creative Commons)

Judge gavel, photo Brian Turner (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Chris Fernandez, Derby

A Tory election agent Diana Dianescu, has been found guilty of 16 offenses of deliberately misleading voters. She was sentenced to six months custody, suspended for a period of 18 months, and told to undertake 200 hours of community service. She had to pay £2,000 court costs. If you compare and contrast it to the way I was treated, it makes me sick and angry.

Dianescu posed as a representative of the Green Party, Labour Party, or as a council official, when knocking on doors in Hackney, east London in the 2018 local elections. She had acted as election agent for 29 Tory candidates. The judge, in a long speech condemning her behaviour, told Dianescu she had narrowly escaped a prison sentence as she did not represent “a future risk to the public.”

Now contrast that to the way I was treated, when I was accused of ‘misleading voters’ into signing nomination papers in the 2016 council elections in Derby. My case covered eight candidates, it was my first ever offence, and I had no criminal record.

I was sixty when I was sentenced in February 2018. I had health problems with high blood pressure, and had been an out-patient at the memory clinic in the run up to the trial. I was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, and found guilty to 12 out of 14 counts of misleading voters into signing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate’s nomination forms.

Political Sentencing

At the time, Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC national officer covered the trial and said: “In reality a 15 month prison sentence is totally disproportionate, even if the offences were proven beyond doubt. But what is most disturbing about this case is that there was, in fact, plenty of doubt” (See ‘Statement on the sentencing of the Derby TUSC agent’ at tusc.org.uk).

In the run-up to the trial I had to pay nearly £5,000 in legal aid fees. I was sent to Nottingham prison and spent 12 weeks there, I did another five weeks in the open prison, and then I was released, but I was on a tag. To top it all, when I came out of prison, within a month I was presented with another legal bill, for nearly £8,500. TUSC launched an appeal and helped to raise half of that, we also received donations from friends. I was ordered to pay about £270 a month. We really struggled to pay, like we did with the legal aid, but we did.

So it was political sentencing. Like a friend of mine said, “it is one rule for them, and another for us.”