Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman has been removed from office after being found guilty Thursday by the High Court of corrupt practises during his mayoral campaign last year.
Four voters had petitioned the court to look into allegations of electoral fraud, asking for the poll to be declared void and for a re-run to be called. Today they were described as having demonstrated “exemplary behaviour” in bringing the case.
Richard Mawrey QC said in his judgement that Rahman’s campaign, which saw him become the first directly elected Muslim mayor, was “deliberately dishonest.” The court found him guilty on charges of corrupt practises in relation to votes, providing false statements, election bribery, and exerting “undue spiritual influence.”
The election has been voided and he has now been removed from office. He is also banned from seeking office again.
The last charge was put onto the statute book in the 19th century to deal with cases related to Irish home rule. However, it was updated in the Representation of the People Act 1983 in which it was defined as:
(2) A person shall be guilty of undue influence —
(a) if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restraint, or inflicts or threatens to inflict, by himself or by any other person, any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of that person having voted or refrained from voting
Writing on the blog Law & Religion UK, David Pocklington points out that the judge would have faced some difficulty addressing this charge as there have been “few reported cases after the 1883 Act became law.”
Mawrey, however, said in his judgement that Rahman’s efforts to enlist the support of the chair of the Tower Hamlets council of mosques amounted to “undue influence.” As journalist Ted Jeory tweeted:
Mawrey concludes Lutfur enlisted chair of TH council of mosques who said it was their religious duty to support Lutfur
— Ted Jeory (@TedJeory) April 23, 2015
Rahman, who won re-election as mayor of Tower Hamlets in May last year, had denied the allegations. His lawyers had previously described the charges as “a rich and elaborate mixture of unfounded and false allegations.”
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