AN ELECTION leaflet put out by the Conservatives sparked a police probe, The News can reveal.
The material – approved by Conservative Campaign Headquarters – was distributed in Hardway for the county council elections.
It asked residents to complete a survey, including their contact details, to be in with a chance of winning a meal at the Rose of Bengal restaurant, in Forton Road, Gosport.
But it sparked controversy as it was handed out just before Piers Bateman was nominated as Conservative candidate for Hardway in the election, which he lost last Thursday.
His opponent Liberal Democrat Peter Chegwyn raised concerns with police.
Hampshire police confirmed to The News that the complaint over the March leaflet was investigated but it resulted in ‘offering guidance’.
Cllr Chegwyn won the election with 2,049 votes against 1,525 for Cllr Bateman, who is also ward member for Lee East on the borough council.
‘I’m not in the habit of reporting things to the police but I think it shouldn’t go unchallenged,’ he said
‘It’s in my view a very serious matter for someone to offer free meals and free drinks just before an election.
‘It was a clear attempt to influence the electorate. Frankly, he didn’t need to do it.’
The Election Commission says a person is guilty of the offence of treating ‘if either before, during or after an election they directly or indirectly give or provide any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting’. The offence requires ‘corrupt intent’.
Cllr Bateman said: ‘It wasn’t put out during the campaign election period, so it came out in advance of that.’
In a statement he added: ‘The survey sought information – not votes. The police duly investigated this matter as a result of the complaint and accepted that there was no intent to corruptly influence voters.’
A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that we have investigated a complaint in relation to a leaflet issued by the Conservative Party to residents in the Hardway division in March this year.
‘All parties have been spoken to offering guidance and are happy with this outcome. The matter has now been resolved.’