Theresa May won't pay £1m legal bills for banning Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman for corruption
PUBLISHED: 16:21 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:31 26 July 2018
The government has rejected a plea by anti-corruption petitioners to pick up the tabs on their £1 million legal bills after they got Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman's regime banned for election rigging.
Leading petitioner Andy Erlam delivered a letter to Downing Street asking Theresa May to use funds to cover “exceptional legal circumstances”.
But the request has been turned down, leaving the petitioners with £1m bills from their own lawyers despite winning the High Court case in 2015.
“The government response is ludicrous,” Andy told the East London Advertiser today.
“It is no argument saying they were not in power in 2015—the point is that it is in power now, whatever previous administration it took over from, which anyway was led by the same political party.
“Any government takes the assets and liabilities of previous administrations in the same way a new Parliament inherits all previous legislation.”
The ‘rough justice’ for the four comes in the face of Rahman still not having paid his legal costs to the court and declaring himself bankrupt after losing the trial against him.
“We have done the job for the statutory agencies in getting rid of corruption,” the 68-year-old documentary producer added. “The government is avoiding its compelling moral responsibility.”
The Cabinet Office agrees that the election court judgment was “a landmark verdict” and helped address serious electoral corruption.
But a spokesman told the Advertiser: “The government was not a party to the 2015 legal case—it would not be appropriate to use taxpayers’ money to pay legal costs where it has no involvement.”
Yet the subsequent report into electoral fraud by Sir Eric Pickles, now Lord Pickles, recommended election petitions and legal costs being reformed.
The current system does not require the High Court to collect anything from those it awards costs against—it’s up to the winning side to chase up, adding more legal costs. Lutfur Rahman, meantime, hasn’t paid the estimated £500,000 costs against him and has declared himself bankrupt.
All the assets Rahman owns that Erlam and his co-petitioners could get their hands on was a little terraced cottage in Bromley-by-Bow now up for sale worth just £250,000 after mortgage and taxes are paid off.