PATRICK Haveron, who was suspended as Liberal Democrat candidate for South West Surrey, Waverley Borough Council and Godalming Town Council days before the May elections, has pleaded guilty at Guildford Magistrates’ Court to falsifying his nomination papers.

Haveron, who lives in George Road, Godalming, was suspended by his party in April, following allegations that signatures by nominees had been forged. He was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment suspended for a year and 200 hours of unpaid work.

The court heard he had forged eight people’s signatures, six of whom had indicated they would agree to sign.

Haveron was suspended by his party after Waverley Borough Council received a complaint from former South West Surrey Conservative Association deputy chairman Tom Gregory that his name and his wife Helen’s name had been incorrectly shown as assenting to Mr Haveron’s nomination as a Liberal Democrat candidate standing in the Godalming Farncombe and Catteshall ward in the borough council election contested on May 7.

Waverley passed the complaint by Mr and Mrs Gregory, who are Mr Haveron’s next door neighbours, to Surrey Police to investigate and informed the Electoral Commission but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot papers.

Votes cast for Mr Haveron on May 7 still counted for him although he was no longer officially recognised by his party, and he received 3,500 votes in the general election, despite his suspension.

The court was told Mr Haveron knew that what he did was “entirely wrong” but he had come under enormous pressure as it was the first time he had stood as a Parliamentary candidate and he was running his campaign with very little support alongside his own self-employed business. At the same time, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Responding to the court’s verdict, Waverley Lib Dems chairman Stewart Edge said: “Forging signatures is clearly unacceptable and this has to be reflected in the court’s decision.

“Without condoning in any way what Patrick did, it is appropriate to point out the pressure he was under which contributed to his regrettable actions. He was a new candidate, self-employed with his living to earn and family health problems requiring hospital visits, hustings meetings to attend and a deluge of emails to answer. He also played a crucial role in producing the local party’s election material.

“With hindsight, I am sorry that as a local party we did not do more to lessen the load. It is clear that Patrick was trying to do too much, which is often the case with local parties which depend totally on volunteers. Patrick has done an enormous amount of work over the years both for the Lib Dems and his local community in Godalming for which we are very grateful.”