Justice and the Law

Tower Hamlets Mayoral election declared void. Election court rules Lutfur Rahman not allowed to stand at new election.

Royal-courts-of-justice by MykReeve at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Royal-courts-of-justice by MykReeve at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has been found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices by a judge following an Election Court trial.

Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC said Mr Rahman was found ‘personally guilty’ of wrongdoing and ‘guilty by his agents’.

Lutfur Raham loses Election Court hearing. No longer directly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Image: Tower Hamlets Council

Lutfur Raham loses Election Court hearing. No longer directly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Image: Tower Hamlets Council

Mr Mawrey in the ruling of the Election Court said the 2014 Tower Hamlets mayoral election was void and that Mr Rahman was barred from standing at the new poll.

Four voters took legal action against Mr Rahman at a hearing in the High Court in London which ran for several weeks and is estimated to have cost about £1 million.

The group was headed by Andy Erlam, who had stood as a councillor on an anti-corruption ticket. He described the ruling as ‘a fantastic result for democracy.’

In a 200 page ruling Mr Mawrey said on the basis of the evidence he found that Mr Rahman was responsible for bribery, treating and undue influence:

It was impossible to deduce any rational link to why he had given these groups the money – money which had been diverted away from going to the Alzhemier’s Society.

They were undoubtedly made corruptly – in short they were intended to influence people to vote for him.

Richard Mawrey QC Election Commissioner since 1994 and Deputy High Court Judge since 1995. Image: http://www.hendersonchambers.co.uk/barristers/richard-mawrey-qc

Richard Mawrey QC Election Commissioner since 1994 and Deputy High Court Judge since 1995. Image: http://www.hendersonchambers.co.uk/barristers/richard-mawrey-qc

Mr Mawrey praised the Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets John Williams and emphasized that he was completely exonerated for any criticisms made.

He said: ‘There is no doubt that far too many people attended the count and the behaviour of many who attended was regrettable.’

He observed that:

Mr Williams was much criticised in the media for the length of time that the count took but the circumstances were such that this was inevitable and he seems to have made the correct decisions, even if they disappointed some in the press.

All in all, Mr Williams did a completely professional job in very difficult and trying circumstances. He is a man of considerable experience in elections – indeed may be considered an expert in the subject – though that expertise was sorely tested in 2014.

As the court has found so often with professional returning officers, Mr Williams was a man who kept his head when all around were losing theirs.

You can read the 200 page ruling by clicking on the link below:

Election Court Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election Ruling 23rd April 2015

After the ruling the Electoral Commission said:

As this case makes clear, when fraud is attempted, or committed, it is candidates and their supporters who make those attempts or commit those offences – voters are the victims. We welcome that Mr Justice Mawrey made this clear in his statement. Campaigners of all parties need to act in line with the highest standards when communicating with voters.

We have been working closely with police forces and local Returning Officers across the country, including in Tower Hamlets, to ensure they have robust plans in place to minimise the risk of fraud at the elections in May.

In a statement after the judgement that was not attended by Mr Rahman, the former Mayor said:

Today’s judgment has come as a shock – the Mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice system, and so this result has been surprising to say the least.

We are seeking further legal advice on the matter in relation to a judicial review.

A more detailed statement clarifying our response will be released shortly.

He was ordered to pay £250,000 towards the cost of the court case.

Embed from Getty Images

Image taken 25th February during the hearing.

The Met Police issued a statement saying they would be studying the 200 page document:

The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to ensuring a free and fair election.

Whilst not a party in the election petition hearing at the High Court today, Thursday, 23 April, the MPS fully assisted with proceedings by providing statements and documents as and when required by the Election Commissioner. A number of Met officers and police staff also attended the court to provide live evidence.

We note the decision of The Election Commissioner and will now take time to fully consider the 200-page report.

In the run up to the General Elections on 7 May, the MPS will continue to work closely with the Electoral Commission and all local authorities across London, including Tower Hamlets, in a proactive and preventative capacity to protect the integrity of the electoral process in London. Planning for the police operation on that day has been underway for sometime and a detailed plan to support the democratic process is already in place.

The MPS take allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice extremely seriously and will fully investigate any put to us. We would encourage anyone with concerns in this area to report the matter to their local police.

This is how the UK court reporting news agency @CourtNewsUK  live tweeted this morning’s ruling.

Mayor LufturRahman’evasive’ witness whose evidence to electoral court ‘demonstrably untrue’

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Mayor LufturRahmanbranded a liar at the High Court.

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rahmanguilty of corruption by using undue spiritual influence over local Muslim community

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rahmanbanned from any elected office and election voided

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Ken Livingstone and George Galloway had supported Rahman, now one of the first mayors in English legal history to be stripped of office

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rahmanfacing bankruptcy as ordered to pay costs

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

victorious petitioner speaks of ongoingharassment and threats from Rahman’s supporters

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rahmanstill denies wrongdoing and says he is seeking a judicial review.

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Judge asks why Labour failed to bring the petition and leave it to members of public. He suggests the party was afraid of racism smears.

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Judge says it is ‘obviously unsatisfactory’ that he lacks the power to strip every Tower Hamlets First councillor of their seat

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

He says that ‘the election of all THF Councillors must be taken to have been achieved with the benefit of the corrupt and illegal practices’

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rahman’almost pathologically incapable of giving a straight answer’. Uttered ‘blatant lies’ under oath.

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Rising star, barrister Francis Hoar, ‘single-handedly conducted the entirety of the case’ to defeat Rahman’shighly experienced legal team

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

A 2010 meeting of Labour’s NEC, which included Harriet Harman and Keith Vaz, is condemned as ‘utterly shameful’ by LutfurRahmanjudge

— CourtNewsUK(@CourtNewsUK) April 23, 2015

Eric Pickles, the outgoing coalition government minister for communities and now Tory prospective parliamentary candidate for Brentwood & Ongar, said after the ruling there could be no place for ‘rotten boroughs’ in our political system.

His full statement in his capacity as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I sent in Commissioners into the dysfunctional mayoral administration following the mismanagement of public money and the breakdown of democratic accountability.

An independent Election Court has now found the Mayor and his agents guilty of corrupt practices, including bribery and the abuse of public money.

This judgment vindicates our action to intervene.

The immediate priority of the Commissioners must be to ensure a free and fair election takes place on 7 May.

I will now ask the Commissioners whether further resources or powers are necessary to help them stamp out this culture of corruption in Tower Hamlets.

The Commissioners’ powers may need to be extended in the interim before any by-election.

The police also need to take steps to stop further corrupt practices following this damning judgement.

We must also challenge those who seek to spread further division in light of the ruling.

There can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st Century Britain.

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