Local election 2021: Tory candidate’s blackmail apology, Gloucestershire

A Conservative candidate standing in both the district and county elections has responded to revelations that he has a criminal conviction for blackmail.

Mr Housden, who was 22 at the time, admitted a charge of demanding £2,000 with menace from a businessman in 2011.

The conviction came to light after a cutting from Private Eye highlighting the case was circulated on social media last week.

After being contacted by the SNJ, Mr Housden issued a statement in which he acknowledged his guilt.

“I accepted my guilt and have taken my punishment,” he said, adding that the incident happened a decade ago.

The case was held at Plymouth Crown Court, which heard that the victim was Mr Housden’s former employer at a firm called the Elite Development Centre, which ran football training for youngsters.

Mr Housden, whose address at the time was in Coleford, sent a long email threatening to reveal information about the business unless the money was paid, the court was told.

His defence advocate described the move as a ‘very incompetent blackmail attempt’, adding that his client did not recognise the ‘gravity’ of what he was doing.

Mr Housden – who also had to complete 200 hours of unpaid work – had no information about the firm to back up his blackmail claims, it was added.

When contacted by the SNJ, Mr Housden issued this statement.

“This statement is to clarify my position ahead of the upcoming elections.

“I like many young people faced a range of challenges and difficulties growing up, and I have made mistakes along the way.

“Mistakes are part of life and I like everyone have made my fair share, including a criminal conviction for which I accepted my guilt and have taken my punishment.

“This has been a matter of public record for many years, and I have issued responses when ever asked.

“I am concerned this has been spread directly ahead of the elections, despite the events it refers to now being 10 years old.

“That said I am now 30, I am the director of two companies which employ over 30 people across Gloucestershire and Stonehouse.

“More specifically, I have a beautiful supportive family, I’m a proud father and I am standing in this election as I feel I can make a real difference for Stonehouse.

“My personal experience has shaped me and drives me to help others.

“For my work with young people in both schools and sport I have obviously been through a criminal database check.

“I grew up locally to Stonehouse in Standish and the town means a huge amount to me. I played football and basketball with friends in the park, I ate at the chippy and I rode my bike to my first job here.

“I am not afraid to say I have made mistakes along the way but I can say every bit of my success is from learning from my mistakes, working hard and overcoming challenges in front of me.

“I am self-made and not afraid to share this with anyone. I hope following this statement we can debate future issues and what is good for the future of Stonehouse, not mull over distant mistakes a young man made whilst growing up.

“Anyone who wants to discuss any of my initiatives for the town or anything else is welcome to contact me directly, ahead of elections this week.”

When asked to comment, Conservative group leader at SDC, Stephen Davies, said: “It is a spent conviction and if you understand the principle of justice you carry out a punishment and then you are free from that crime.

“He has learnt from that, actually there’s a statement on his Facebook, that is why he now does work with young people so actually it’s a complete non-story and anybody who sits around suggesting that he’s an unsuitable person does not understand true justice.”

Conservative Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie declined to comment further than the statement from Mr Davies.

Mark Hawthorne, Conservative leader at GCC, did not responded to a request for comment.

Last month, Mr Housden was joined by Boris Johnson and Ms Baillie at a campaign event at the Great Oldbury development in Stonehouse.

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