Police called to prevent voters being harassed

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FOR the first time in the High Peak, police were called to deal with electioneering outside a polling station.

The move followed complaints from voters who said a number of candidates in the parish elections in Hayfield were handing out leaflets as they were going in to vote at St Matthew’s Church Hall.

A spokesperson for High Peak Borough Council, who are responsible for elections, said: “The Electoral Commission’s guidance for candidates and agents states that representatives of political parties are not to campaign inside the precincts of any polling station. It also states that they should not campaign aggressively at or near the entrance to a polling station.

“Accordingly, the presiding officer for the station in St Matthew’s Church Hall acted correctly in requesting campaigners to remove themselves from the station curtilage and to refrain from the handing out of party political literature. The request was made following complaints from voters.

“The campaigners left the station grounds when asked to do so but then continued to campaign outside. At that point, the presiding officer called the police, who then dispersed them.

“The police confirmed that the campaigners were also in breach of guidance followed by the police in maintaining public order on the approaches to polling stations.

“This was the first time the Council has considered it necessary to seek police help in maintaining public order on the approaches to a polling station.”

A Derbyshire police spokeswoman said officers had been called at 2.40pm on Thursday afternoon by the borough council.

“Some candidates were outside the polling booth handing out leaflets to voters which is regarded as canvassing outside a polling station which you cannot do – it is classed as harassing voters.

“We spoke to a few candidates who weren’t doing anything at the time. We made it clear to them that if they were thinking of handing out leaflets or speaking to voters they couldn’t and left it at that.”

There were 15 candidates in total who put themselves forward for one of the eight seats available on the parish council in a hotly-contested election.

• A misunderstanding led to police also attending a polling station in Derby. It was mistakenly thought someone was harassing a voter when in fact they were translating the voting form for someone who did not speak English.