Confusion over Covid guidelines as delivery of Green Party leaflets wrongly stopped
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
Confusion over Covid guidelines meant police officers stopped an election candidate’s leaflets from being delivered.
It prompted a complaint from Adam Turner, the Green Party’s candidate for next week’s Conwy county council Eirias ward by-election.
Two people were being paid by the party’s national office to deliver Mr Turner’s political leaflets on his behalf in Old Colwyn but were wrongly told to stop by officers on Saturday afternoon.
After working for four hours prior to being approached, they were allegedly told to go home or face a fine.
Mr Turner, who is vying to get elected in Eirias ward, a seat which became vacant last September after the death of long-standing councillor Dave Cowans, said he had lost four days campaigning because of the mix-up.
It is against Covid regulations for political candidates to go knocking doors and delivering party material on the campaign trail.
However posting leaflets is not illegal if it is done by a professional third party, as was the case in this instance, as the work cannot be done from home.
Mr Turner, 35, said he accepted police were “working exceptionally hard in severely challenging circumstances” but said the force shouldn’t be “beyond accountability” when officers “decide to intervene in important democratic processes”.
He said: “I have paid a mail delivery service to distribute leaflets in the Eirias ward, as is expressly permitted in the relevant guidance.
“On Saturday they were instructed to go home or face a fine by a North Wales police officer.
“I asked North Wales Police for an urgent clarification on the matter, which I received after seeking the involvement of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“In their clarification, North Wales Police admits it misapplied the law and the actions of the workers were lawful.”
He added he didn’t want his campaign to be run in any which would break coronavirus regulations.
The email from outgoing North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “Further to my earlier e-mail I have now received the following advice from North Wales Police:
“‘I can confirm that our interpretation of the regulations in relation to the question asked around individuals in paid employment posting leaflets through doors is that it is not a contravention of the regulations.
“‘I will ensure that force-wide communications are issued highlighting this point today.’
“Please rest assured North Wales Police remains completely impartial to any political party and does not seek to disadvantage any party in any way.”
North Wales chief superintendent Nigel Harrison said: “Clearly, the officer has made a determination of what is reasonable, however upon reflection of the current Welsh Government guidance, I can confirm candidates are able to pay for a postal service.”