Former St Helens mayor admits standing in election despite sex offence conviction

A former St Helens mayor has admitted standing for election to a neighbouring council - despite sex offence convictions barring him from doing so.

John Beirne will be sentenced by a crown court judge after pleading guilty to two charges at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

John Beirne

John Beirne

He admitted making a false statement in a candidate election document on March 20 ahead of last year’s local elections, as he was subject to a suspended prison sentence for historical sexual offences.

The 58-year-old, who wore a dark blue coat and glasses in the dock, also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with notification requirements for the Sex Offenders’ Register by not telling authorities that he had changed his name.

The bench was told Beirne was “no stranger to politics”, having been Mayor of St Helens in 2008-09 and standing in the parliamentary elections as a candidate for the UK Independence Party.

But in 2017 he pleaded guilty to several historical sex offences and was given a 16-month prison term, suspended for two years, at Liverpool Crown Court.

Despite this, he decided to stand for election for a seat on Wigan Council last year.

On March 8 he told the council he had changed his name by deed poll to John Blondel and he handed in a nomination pack on March 27.

Ben Southam, prosecuting, told justices that the council officer remembered they had discussed his name change.

Checks carried out afterwards revealed Beirne, of School Way, Norley, Wigan, was subject to a suspended sentence so was disqualified from standing for election.

Mr Southam said: “He was contacted by the local press and tried to withdraw his nomination, but he missed the deadline to do so. This meant his name remained on the ballot paper.”

Election leaflets featured images of independent candidate Beirne and he received just over 350 votes from residents in the Douglas ward, after being named as John Blondel on voting slips.

Mr Southam said he did not know if that affected the outcome of the poll, which was won by Labour’s Sheila Ramsdale.

He told the bench that Beirne knew he was not eligible to stand for election and asked them to send the case to the crown court due to their increased sentencing powers.

Mr Southam said: “The prosecution would say this is a very deliberate attempt. It is not something he did mistakenly.”

Laura Baumanis, defending, said Beirne accepted he should not have stood in the election.

She explained he had used the surname Blondel - his former partner’s name - as that was how people in Wigan knew him and he had used his own address and photograph.

She said: “He was not trying to avoid the fact he had a conviction against him, it was quite simply to use a name he was known by in the locality and increase the number of votes he would get.”

Magistrates decided Beirne should be sentenced at the higher court and the case was adjourned until Monday, February 24 at Bolton Crown Court.

He was remanded on bail until then, with a condition of residence at his home in Norley.