09:57, May 17 29 0 theguardian.com

2017-05-17 09:57:02

 

Ex-mayor of Tower Hamlets challenges election court ruling

The former mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has launched a legal challenge to a court ruling that bans him from standing for election.

Rahman was removed from office, banned from standing for election for five years and ordered to pay £250,000 costs in April 2015 after the election court found he had used corrupt and illegal practices when he was elected for his second term as mayor of the London borough in 2014.

But the police and Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to launch a criminal prosecution.

On Wednesday Rahman began an application for a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice, calling for either the electoral court ruling to be overturned or for a criminal prosecution to be launched, which would allow him to face a jury trial.

The judicial review application names the four Tower Hamlets residents who brought the case, as well as the election court, the Met commissioner, and the director of public prosecutions.

Rahman argues the election court’s finding does not comply with article 6 of the European convention on human rights by infringing on the presumption of innocence that people enjoy until they have been found guilty in a criminal court.

The election court and criminal courts have the same standard of proof – allegations must be proven “beyond reasonable doubt”. Rahman’s barrister, Paul Bowen QC, said the election court was “essentially a quasi criminal procedure” and the “ingredients” for a criminal prosecution relating to electoral fraud were identical to those used by the election court, and that the way in which the 2015 judgment was framed heavily implied he has been found criminally guilty.

“The fact that the election court has found you guilty doesn’t have to mean you’re found guilty in the criminal court,” Bowen said.

Public authorities cannot suggest someone is guilty of something when this has not been proven in criminal courts if there are any active criminal procedures, he added, arguing that this extended to police investigations. But reporting of the election court judgment “read as if he has been convicted of a criminal offence”, while the court itself articulates its ruling “in terms that amount to a criminal offence”.

In March, Scotland Yard faced sharp criticism of the decision not to prosecute Rahman from the chair of the London mayor’s police and crime committee, who said there had been “major failings” in the investigation.

Questioned at the committee, Commander Stuart Cundy said Rahman had been a “named suspect” in the Met’s investigations into electoral fraud. Cundy explained that unlike the election court, criminal proceedings could not take hearsay evidence into account.

The police have since announced they are examining 27 files that the election court had seen but Scotland Yard had not when they made their original decision not to pass a file to the CPS for a charging decision. The application continues on Thursday.