Rahman removed as Tower Hamlets mayor

23 Apr 15

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said the government’s decision to send commissioners into Tower Hamlets has been justified after mayor Lutfur Rahman was found guilty of electoral fraud and removed from office.

A new election has been declared for the post on June 11 after an election commissioner, Richard Mawrey, today found the mayor had ‘driven a coach and horses through election law and didn't care’ due to corrupt practices.

Among the rulings was a finding that ballots in the election in 2014 were double-cast or cast from false addresses, and that false statements made against Rahman's rival for the post, Labour candidate John Biggs.

It was also found that voters were ‘treated’, an offence of providing free food and drink to encourage people to vote for Rahman, and some were also told that it was their duty as Muslims to vote for him.

Rahman has been banned from standing in the new contest.

Pickles, who sent commissioners into the borough last year following concerns that it was failing to meet its Best Value duties, said he took action following mismanagement of public money and a 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,’ he added.

‘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 May 7.

‘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.’

He said the powers of the commissioners, who are being led by the former chief fire and rescue adviser for England Sir Ken Knight, may need to be extended in the interim before any by-election.

‘We must also challenge those who seek to spread further division in light of the ruling,’ he added.

‘There can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st century Britain.’

Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party said the judgement had 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,’ it stated

‘We are seeking further legal advice on the matter in relation to a judicial review.’
A council spokesman highlighted that the judgement had cleared the council’s returning officer, John Williams, and council staff of allegations of fraudulent practice related to the 2014 elections.

‘We welcome recognition that the council’s strong electoral processes – which have been subject to further intense scrutiny during this petition hearing – are sound and Tower Hamlets Council will now take the steps necessary to hold an election for executive mayor of Tower Hamlets.’

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