Editor unearths Tory sleaze in Folkestone

The Folkestone Herald splash

The Folkestone Herald scooped national newspapers when it revealed a Tory councillor was expelled from his local party after admitting 65 criminal convictions, including sexually abusing children.

Editor Simon Finlay had been checking out a tip-off on Robert Richdale’s past for some time and getting nowhere, he told Press Gazette, until he heard that Richdale, who is refusing to resign as a councillor, had been sacked by his local party.

The local party chairman, Jonathan Holborow – a former editor of the Mail on Sunday – confirmed that he had been expelled and that he had been called on to resign from the council as soon as his convictions, which included paedophilia and 19 drugs offences, came to light.

“At which point, I went round to see Richdale,” said Finlay “and he let me in and told me everything, giving me a full list of his antecedents. He doesn’t seem to think his long career in crime would preclude him from a career in politics.

“I think the local Tory party were very embarrassed by this. It was a terrible blunder on somebody’s part.”

Richdale claimed he had not been through any vetting procedure when he was adopted as a Tory candidate before the local elections in May and that he had signed a piece of paper without reading it which he now believes may have asked him to declare any criminal convictions.

Finlay said: “Journalists sometimes get criticised for not checking the provenance of certain individuals or facts that come across our desks in a normal working week, but in the case of a political party they cannot checkwith the criminal records bureau.

They are beholden to the candidates to declare if there is anything in their past which might cause embarrassment or trouble for the party.”

Simon Finlay: scooped the Mirror

Finlay knew the Mirror had also been working on the story and telephoned editor Richard Wallace on Tuesday of last week to find out if the national was about to run with it.

When it did not appear the next day, the Herald was able to claim the scoop in its Thursday edition.

Finlay discovered that Richdale, 54, was a serial sex offender, barred from seeing his two daughters because of his history of abusing children, among them a 14-year-old girl.

In addition, he had a 40-year career of crime, which included causing death by dangerous driving.

By Jean Morgan

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