A one man battle to derail a candidate’s campaign to become mayor of Bedford has prompted a major police investigation, an arrest, and possibly a costly trial.
On Monday a 44-year-old male was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act.
The arrest followed a joint investigation by Bedfordshire and Metropolitan police forces into an alleged smear campaign against mayoral candidate Steve Lowe.
Mr Lowe, who is a former Beds on Sunday editor, stood as an independent and came fourth in the mayoral election in May.
Shortly before polling day a mystery website was launched, ridiculing his campaign and making defamatory comments about his integrity.
Details of the website were circulated to businesses all over Bedford as well as all 40 local councillors.
Furious Mr Lowe, who is 63, referred to the site at the time as “libellous, scurrilous and untrue”.
He slammed the perpetrator for spoiling the election campaign and said he had recruited lawyers to investigate a civil action for defamation of character.
But on Monday police confirmed the matter had turned into a criminal investigation.
A Beds police spokesman said: “A 44-year-old man from Kingston-upon-Thames was arrested on Monday on suspicion of sending grossly offensive or false messages by public electronic communications.”
The spokesman confirmed this was in connection with the creation of a “defamatory website”.
Ironically Mr Lowe said he was unaware of the arrest and said he did not know the identity of the suspect.
“I don’t know what you are talking about and I have no comment to make,” he told the Times & Citizen yesterday.
Meanwhile the arrested man, who has not been charged, has been bailed until October.
If charged and found guilty he could face a maximum of two years in prison.