Dummies can stand for election, court signals, after case thrown out

The mannequin, Helena Torry.
The mannequin, Helena Torry.
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A PENSIONER has been cleared of registering a dummy to stand in a local government election.

• Renee Slater entered a mannequin called Helena Torry into Aberdeen council elections last year

• Case dismissed on technicality - Presiding Officer says he “will have no hesitation” in referring similar cases to police

Renee-Margaret Slater went on trial accused of entering a mannequin as a candidate in last year’s city council election in

Aberdeen. The 64-year-old lodged the name of Helena Torry on an official nomination document and delivered the paperwork to the returning officer at the city town house.

The former Labour councillor went on trial facing a charge under the Representation of People Act 1983 earlier this week. But yesterday the pensioner was cleared because the sheriff ruled that the charge was not relevant to the case.

Defence lawyer Gregor Kelly argued that the charge against his client related to parliamentary elections and local government elections in England and Wales. And Sheriff Peter Hammond upheld the submission that his client had no case to answer.

Following the hearing, Ms Slater said: “I just want to thank the people who helped out, the friends of Helena Torry who raised the funds for it. I couldn’t get legal aid.

“She ended up with a personality, and certainly has more charisma than some politicians.

“It has been really stressful. It has been worrying but it has been very interesting. I think we will have a party.”

Dummy Helena was rolled out on a wheeled stand into the court room during the trial. Spectators sitting in the public gallery laughed as the smiling mannequin was positioned as a production next to the witness box.

The mannequin was taken into custody on 19 April after Ms Slater was taken to police headquarters for questioning.

Police were called in after nomination paperwork was handed in to returning officer Crawford Langley.

The document was handed in an hour before the 4pm deadline on 29 March.

The court heard one of two documents handed to the returning officer named Renee Slater as the candidate’s agent.

And the paperwork stated that Helena Torry was being nominated to stand in the Hazlehead and Queens Cross ward.

Giving evidence, Mr Langley said the form was allowed to be processed because he believed it was a valid entry.

The court heard the Notice of Polls, which lists the candidates, had to be republished when he became aware of a potential issue the following day.

Yesterday Grampian Police Constable Robert Chrystal said Ms Slater told officers that she had not registered the dummy out of malice.

The court heard she told officers: “It was never done for any malice. It was meant to be a bit of humour and fun during a very austere election process.”

The police officer told the court he asked Ms Slater to take them to where the dummy was being stored so they could take possession of it.

The dummy was registered to stand as a voice for the “silent majority” and the equality of citizens.

Following the hearing, Mr Langley said he was not expected to check the facts of nomination paperwork but check that the forms were correctly filled in.

Mr Kelly said: “My client is eternally grateful that this harrowing ordeal is now at an end and is pleased to have been vindicated by the court.

“Ms Slater, who has worked tirelessly over the years in various community projects, did not seek to belittle or demean the electoral process, and is glad that on this occasion common sense has prevailed.”