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Election fraud trial hears evidence from former Douglas East candidate

The trial of four people accused of election fraud has heard evidence from the former Douglas East by-election candidate Kevin Woodford and Isle of Man Economic Advisor Stephen Carse.

Kerry Louise Rothwell, 25, from Onchan, Catherine Elizabeth Liggins, 26, from Onchan, Gail Corrin, 40, from Douglas and Geoffrey Andrew Callister, 52, from Port Erin all four deny charges of conspiracy to obtain proxy votes illegally.

Yesterday (Thurs) the court heard Mr Carse admit that the the application form used in 2010 for a proxy or absent vote "possibly lent itself to confusion" although this had never been an issue before the 2010 by-election.

Mr Carse had responsibility for the administration of the proxy voting system, which is a vote given to those who can confirm they intend to be off-island on the day of an election and want to nominate someone to vote on their behalf.

Mr Carse had taken the unusual step of sending out further letters to confirm electors intended to be off-island on polling day, after a vast jump in the number of proxy applications for Douglas East, from 39 in the 2006 General Election to 253 in 2010 by election. Around 189 of these were from the Woodford campaign. Whilst this move had been questioned by Mr Woodford's campaign leader Charles Lewin, Mr Carse said it had been his policy to allow the votes if he heard nothing back so as not to disenfranchise anyone. However, the court heard there had been a long-running dispute between Mr Carse and Mr Lewin over the necessity of someone applying for a proxy vote to be off island.

Kevin Woodford, a witness for the prosecution, told the court he had been approached by Mr Lewin to stand for the Keys and that Mr Lewin had been instructed in turn by a number of wealthy local businessmen who wanted to back a candidate. Mr Woodford told the court he had no idea who was behind this so called "Manx Election Trust" who wanted to back him, nor did he know what Mr Lewin did for a living. Mr Woodford said he'd been told the three Trustees were former Chief Minister Donald Gelling, accountant Clive Dickson and former banker Douglas Elliot.

The defence also revealed there were other people behind the trust including the MD of development company Dandara, Seamus Nugent, who's son was part of the Woodford campaign. Mr Lewin was also employed by Dandara at the time.

Mr Woodford said he didn't know this and had no evidence to confirm that Dandara was behind his campaign. He added that he trusted some of the names associated with the trust, including lawyer James Quinn, and he had no reason to be suspicious of their motives. At no time had he instructed anyone to target residential homes to get proxy votes

Mr Woodford will conclude his evidence later today.

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