Northern Ireland news

Police end probe over mock DUP ballot paper

The DUP's Trevor and Linda Clarke, and inset, the mock ballot paper produced by AC Print which is being probed by police
Brendan Hughes

POLICE have ended their probe over a mock ballot paper by the DUP which listed a TUV rival as an Alliance candidate.

The mock ballot, encouraging voters to back three DUP candidates in last year's council elections, was distributed at some polling stations in the Ballymoney area.

A police investigation was launched following a complaint from former TUV councillor William Blair, who lost his seat on Causeway Coast and Glens council by about four votes.

The mock ballot was produced by AC Print, a business run by DUP MLA Trevor Clarke's son from the family home outside Randalstown in Co Antrim.

The DUP said it was a "printing error", but Mr Blair claimed it breached electoral law and may have cost him the election.

After investigating the PSNI said "no offence had been committed".

"Police investigated a complaint regarding what was described as a 'mock ballot' that was allegedly circulated on Thursday May 2 of last year," a spokesman said.

"Following consultation with both the Electoral Commission and the Public Prosecution Service it was determined that no offence had been committed and in February 2020 the matter was filed pending any further information coming to light."

In his complaint to police, Mr Blair had said it was against electoral rules to publish a false statement of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate.

TUV leader Jim Allister at the time said the party was "expecting a full police investigation", telling the Ballymoney Chronicle: "This, frankly, is a dirty trick too far."

DUP councillor Ivor Wallace had described it as a "genuine mistake by the printer" and pointed out that 'TUV' was stated below Mr Blair's name on the mock ballot.

He said he apologised to Mr Blair on polling day and when the issue was raised, Alliance was marked out on the papers.

The probe emerged last year amid several controversies surrounding Mr Clarke and his wife, DUP councillor Linda Clarke.

Among the issues, it was revealed that Mrs Clarke was involved in awarding AC Print more than £4,500 in work from Antrim and Newtownabbey council.

The local government standards commissioner is investigating.

Trevor and Linda Clarke have insisted they "made all the relevant declarations and adhered to all rules".

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