Alison Shields was told she faced upwards of five years in jail by Conservative Garry Burchett [Image: Daily Post].

Alison Shields was told she faced upwards of five years in jail by Conservative Garry Burchett [Image: Daily Post].

“Whatever happened to free speech?” asked Alison Shields as she explained how a Tory Assembly candidate intimidated her with false claims about breaking electoral rules.

Garry Burchett contacted her on Facebook to say a Facebook comment about another Tory candidate was against electoral rules and, if prosecuted, she could face five years in prison.

Under the Representation of the People Act, section 106, making false representations about a candidate can result in a fine of up to £5,000 but no custodial sentence.

It’s a clear act of intimidation.

And it raises some important questions, such as:

Would the Conservative Party have been so quick to distance itself from Mr Burchett’s comments if Ms Shields had not kicked up a fuss?

And:

Why was Facebook happy to take her post down without checking the truth of the allegation?

Investigations are currently being held into Conservative MPs who allegedly broke electoral law. Bearing that in mind, one would have expected the Tories not to throw their weight around.

But then, Tories seem to naturally believe they can do anything they please.

Tory chiefs have distanced themselves from a Llandudno Conservative who told a woman she faced at least five years in jail – over a Facebook post about the Assembly elections.

Garry Burchett contacted Alison Shields, from Llandudno, to tell her she risked up to five years in prison for breaking electoral rules when she criticised Conservative Aberconwy candidate Janet Finch-Saunders.

The maximum penalty for any such offence – which has not been proven – is a £5,000 fine.

Alison Shields had posted a comment saying she was voting for the Plaid Cymru candidate Trystan Lewis ahead of Thursday’s poll, and alleging Mrs Finch-Saunders had in her view not been supportive of the Restore campaign to improve Llandudno beach.

She then received an email from Mr Burchett – who was a regional list candidate for an Assembly seat – telling her: “I do not want to come across as threatening in any way but you are breaking electoral law by writing unsubstantiated comments about a candidate during the election … if this is reported to the Electoral Commission they can have (you) prosecuted. The minimum sentence is five years.”

Miss Shields told the Daily Post she felt intimidated by the message, adding: “I got the message from Garry Burchett on Wednesday and I panicked because it sounded really official. My post was taken down, I assume, by Facebook.

“I would never have believed I was getting threats of five years in prison from a potential member of the Assembly there to represent all views.

“What happened to freedom of speech?”

The Post has now been allowed back onto Facebook.

Source: Llandudno woman told by Conservative she faced ‘five years jail’ over Facebook post about Assembly election – Daily Post

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