Verdict deliberation of Tower Hamlets election trial begins at High Court 10.30am
- Credit: Archant
The judge in the High Court looking into allegations of mal-practice and intimidation in last year’s election for Mayor of Tower Hamlets is about to start his deliberations of his verdict this morning.
The findings of the hearing into an election petition are being read out from 10.30am in courtroom 38 at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand by Barrister Richard Mawrey, a QC and deputy High Court Judge.
He has been hearing evidence during a six-week trial, which ended last month, from four petitioners lead by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam who claimed mal-practice and forgery in postal ballots and intimidation at polling stations by Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s supporters during last May’s election.
Erlam sees his legal move as “the first step to re-establishing democracy” in the East End.
“We petitioners were not motivated by financial gain, as there is none,” he told the East London Advertiser. “Our aim was much more ambitious—to show that democracy is vital in the East End, in our country and in our culture.
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“If we loose the case today, the full legal costs, about £1 million, will fall individually on us four petitioners.
Anyone can challenge an election—if they have £1m to throw away.
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“The law on elections, election petitions and much else has to change.”
He criticises the authorities and asked why “so little was done by the police” to stop the intimidation of witnesses.
“The Bangladeshi communities were and are terrified of speaking out,” he claims. “Do we really want to live in a country where people are fearful of speaking the truth?
“We owe it to our Bangladeshi and all other neighbours to stand up with them to defeat the bullies.”
Erlam also criticised the Election Commission as “useless” which he says has done “virtually nothing to restore democracy in Tower Hamlets”.
Now he urges—whatever this-morning’s High Court verdict is—that a “less exclusive” administration must be put in place at the Town Hall.
“A cross-party administration is now needed,” he insists. “It must open up transparently and democratically with Conservatives, Labour and possibly independents—indeed anyone with ability, integrity and a genuine commitment to public service.
“The Tower Hamlets First administration is not fit to govern—the whole machine must be completely cleaned out and the smokescreen of false accusations of racism will not cut the mustard any more.”
He was one of four voters who mounted a challenge under the Representation Of The People Act. Their lawyers made allegations including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.
Mayor Rahman said there was “little, if any” evidence of wrongdoing against him. His lawyers described the claims as invention, exaggeration and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.
Allegations of “vote rigging” have marred elections in the East End as far back as 2006 with evidence uncovered of false addresses and bogus names finding their way onto the voting register.
Barrister Mr Mawney, in his role as a judge in election cases, has repeatedly criticised the postal voting system.
Mayor Rahman’s administration has also been dogged with controversy over handing out council grants, with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sending in two commissioners in December to oversee Town Hall spending.