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General

REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1983

Notice ID: MFN0614998

Notice effective from
25th June 2021 to 25th July 2021

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1983
REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1983
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION FOR THE TOTTERIDGE AND BOWERDEAN WARD OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL HELD ON 6th MAY, 2021
Notice is hereby given that an election petition has been presented in the High Court on behalf of the petitioner Anwar Rashid of 41 Adelaide Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HF13 6UW. The Petition shows:
1. That the Petitioner was a candidate at the election of Councillors for the Ward of Totteridge and Bowerdean ('the Ward') in the what became, on the election of Councillors, the Buckinghamshire Council ('the Council'), in which he received 957 votes.

2. That the said election was held on Thursday, 6th May, 2021 when the following were candidates:
Julia Denise Wassell
Rafiq Mohammed Raja
lmran Hussain
Ian Stephen Bates
Steve Guy
Philippa Eryl Young
Anwar Rashid
Matthew Owen Plested
Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood
Alexander Stephen Cobb
Ben James Holkham
Hasan Ali Arif

3. That on Saturday, 9th May, 2021, the Acting Returning Officer for what was then the Shadow Authority of Buckinghamshire ('the Shadow Authority') who was present at the count, Ian Hunt (democratic services manager for the Shadow Authority), declared that the number of votes received for each candidate was as follows:
Julia Denise Wassell 1255
Imran Hussain 1129
Steve Guy 1009
Anwar Rashid 957
Philippa Eryl Young 541
Alexander Stephen Cobb 426
Ben James Holkham 901
Rafiq Mohammed Raja 714
Ian Stephen Bates 593
Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood 915
Matthew Owen Plested 490
Hasan Ali Arif 404

And the Returning Officer duly declared that the said Julia Denise Wassell, Imran Hussain and Steve Guy were elected to be Councillors for the said Ward. The Returning Officer also declared that 108 ballot papers cast by electors in the said Ward had been rejected as spoilt.

4.(The Shadow Authority was created by the Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019. Pursuant to Article 4 of the 2019 Order, Buckinghamshire County Council and all District Councils in the County of Buckinghamshire were abolished on 1st April 2020. Pursuant to Article 5 of the 2019 Order, all those who had been county councillors and district councillors in the said authorities became councillors of the 'Shadow Authority' of Buckinghamshire, pending elections to the Buckinghamshire Council, which were due to be held in May 2020 under Article 18 of the 2019 Order. Pursuant to the Coronavirus Act 2020 and associated secondary legislation, the said election was then delayed until 6th May, 2021. Following the said elections, Buckinghamshire Council was created pursuant to the 2019 Order (as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020 and associated secondary legislation). Pursuant to Articles 7(7) of the Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019, Nicholas Graham had been appointed as the Returning Officer for the Shadow Authority.)

5.That at the election a person or persons unknown were guilty of multiple offences of tampering with up to 108 ballot papers by fraudulently defacing them, contrary to s 65(2)(a) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 ('the 1983 Act'), an offence that is an illegal practice, as a criminal offences committed during an election that was created by the 1983 Act (Simmons v Khan M/326/07 (18 March 2008, unreported), para 30; Ali v Bashir and another [2013] EWHC 2572 (QB), para 51; Erlam & Others v Rahman and Another [2015] All ER (D) 197 (Apr), para 348 (specifically in relation to s 65 of the 1983 Act)). The particulars of the offences of tampering are as follows:

PARTICULARS OF THE ILLEGAL PRACTICES OF TAMPERING

(1) The Petitioner, Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood and Ben James Holkham ('the Liberal Democrat Candidates', when referred to together) were the only candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party and were visibly so, their names on the ballot papers issued for the election being accompanied by the name of the said political party and its well-known emblem, a yellow bird (whether or not coloured).

(2) The First, Second and Third Respondents were independent candidates who stood under the designation 'Wycombe Independent' and who were the only candidates to do so.

(3) At the count of the said election, the Petitioner and other Liberal Democrat Candidates and their observers observed the votes that were considered for rejection, and which were ultimately rejected by the Returning Officer, due to being spoilt. Of those votes, it was noted by the said candidates and their observers that over 80 of the 108 ballots ultimately rejected by the Returning Officer as spoilt ballots contained three votes for the Liberal Democrat candidates and one or more vote for one or more candidate or candidates; and that the pen or pencil mark in which the vote for the non-Liberal Democrat candidate was cast was visibly different to that for the other candidate or candidates. No such pattern was observed for any of the other 'block' votes for all three candidates from other party political or independent groupings.

(4) Not only was this highly unusual in itself, the proportion of spoilt ballots rejected in the Ward, 3.5 %, was almost three times as high as any other ward in Buckinghamshire (the next highest being around 1.2 %) and almost four times as high as all but one other ward. The striking difference supports the observation of the Petitioner and the other Liberal Democrat Candidates that most of the spoilt ballots for the Ward had been tampered with and can be seen in the below bar chart:

PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE PDF BELOW TO VIEW THE DETAILS

(5) No criticism is made of the Returning Officer for rejecting the ballots in question. It would have been impossible for him to determine during the count that any one individual ballot had been tampered with and he had no choice but to leave that determination to the Election Court, in the event an Election Petition was brought.

(6) Nevertheless, the Petitioner avers that the Election Court has the jurisdiction to determine that ballots found after scrutiny and the trial of the Petition to have been valid votes cast and that were rejected only because they were defaced should be counted in favour of the candidate or candidates in favour of whom the elector cast a valid vote; and that that jurisdiction exists because the Acting Returning Officer, had he exercised his judicial role assisted by the evidence that will be available to the Court on reviewing his decision but was not available to him, would have treated the votes that appeared to be spoilt by the elector as valid votes were he to have determined (as he would have done had he been in possession of all the evidence) that they were valid votes not spoilt by the elector but tampered with by a person or persons unknown (Petition of Rowe In the matter of the Representation of the People Act 1983 [2001] All ER (D) 329 (Dec)). (

7) The above evidence considered ciunulatively is sufficient to establish to the criminal standard of proof that the ballots were tampered with, in view of the following:
(a) That each of the questionable ballots (being the majority but not all of the rejected ballots) contained a vote for all three Liberal Democrat candidates and for one or more other/s;

(b) That there appeared to be no other party grouping or individual candidate whose individual or collective votes were invalidated by a further vote or votes in any statistically significant number;

(c) That the vote or votes for the other candidate or candidates appeared, in each of the above, to be cast in a different pen or pencil; and

(d) That there were several times more rejected ballots in the Ward than in any other ward;

And this is so notwithstanding that it may be impossible to establish by whom the said votes were tampered or in order to promote or procure the election of which candidate; and that any person who tampered with ballots with the object of preventing the counting of valid votes for the Liberal Democrat Candidate must have intended to promote or procure the election of one or more candidates other than the Liberal Democrat Candidates.

6. That the extent of the said tampering amounted to general corruption in favour of one or more unknown candidates other than the Petitioner, Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood or Ben James Holkham. In particular:

PARTICULARS OF GENERAL CORRUPTION
(1) Section 164 of the 1983 Act provides as follows:

(1) Where on an election Petition it is shown that corrupt or illegal practices or illegal payments, employments or hirings committed in reference to the election for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any person at that election have so extensively prevailed that they may be reasonably supposed to have affected the result -

(a) his election, if he has been elected, shall be void, and

(b) he shall be incapable of being elected to fill the vacancy or any of the vacancies for which the election was held.

(2) An election shall not be liable to be avoided otherwise than under this section by reason of general corruption, bribery, treating or intimidation.

(3) An election under the local government Act may be questioned on the ground that it is avoided under this section.

(2) The effect of this provision is that an election must be voided if corrupt and illegal practices have so extensively prevailed that they may reasonably be supposed to have affected the result, even if those practices were intended to procure the election of a person other than the successful candidate (Akhtar and others v Julian and others Iqbal and others v Islam and others [2005] All ER (D) 15 (Apr)).

(3) In this case, the effect of the tampering by a person or persons unknown must have been 'for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any person' given that the said tampering made the election of the Petitioner and the other Liberal Democrat Candidates less likely by preventing ballots cast in their favour from being counted: by making the election of the said candidates less likely, they made the election of any other candidate more likely; and s 164 does not require that the purpose must be to procure the election of only one persons - it can equally be for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any person other than the petitioner or the petitioner and other candidates from his political party (as here).

(4) Section 164 does not require that the candidate whose election is promoted or procured is identified or is capable of being identified, only that the election of 'any person' who is a candidate is being promoted or procured.

(5) Had the rejected ballots not been tampered with, the Petitioner and both other Liberal Democrat Candidates would each have received 80 or more additional votes.

(6) The difference in the votes cast for the Petitioner and those cast for Steve Guy was 52 (957 and 1009, respectively). Had 80 or more ballots been cast for the Petitioner and the other Liberal Democrat Candidates, the Petitioner would have been declared elected and Steve Guy would not have been. Thus, the general corruption by a person or persons unknown so extensively prevailed that they can be reasonably expected to have affected the result.

(7) It is conceded that the said general corruption limited to the rejected votes having been tampered with could not have so extensively prevailed as to affect the result in respect of the election of Imran Hussain (who received 1129 votes) or of Julia Denise Wassell (who received 1255 votes). Had Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood (who received 915 votes and was the next placed candidate after the Petitioner) received a vote in every one of the 108 rejected ballots (and it is not alleged that every one of them was tampered with) he could not have received as many votes as either Imran Hussain or Julia Wassell. The Petition names and is served upon the Second and Third Respondents only because of the Petitioner's contention that there should be a recount (on grounds set out below) in which he has reasonable grounds to believe the First and Second Respondents may be found not to have been declared elected validly.

7. That there is evidence that, individually or cumulatively, constitutes good grounds for believing that there were acts and/or omissions of the Fourth Respondent's officials in breach of their official duty in connection with the election and/or under the Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006, SI 2006/3304, which acts/ omissions affected the result. In particular:

(1) The Petitioner and the Liberal Democrat Candidates and their observers were told, when the count was ongoing, that there were 566 block votes (those cast for all candidates from one political party or other grouping) for the First, Second and Third Respondents (as 'Wycombe Independent' candidates) and 580 block votes for the Liberal Democrat candidates.

(2) The count then moved to mixed votes (those that were cast for candidates from more than one political party or other grouping). These were counted in groups of 25 votes and after each group of 25 votes was counted, the numbers for each candidate were recorded at the end of the tally on the sheet by the Returning Officers counting staff. The Petitioner and other Liberal Democrat candidates and observers were keeping a mental note of the numbers and observed that the Second and Third Respondents did not appear to be in first, second or third place (in total and given the block and mixed votes) given the numbers that were being recorded.

(3) The Petitioner asked the Acting Returning Officer for a recount because of the unusually large number of ballots that had been rejected for being spoilt in a manner that suggested a deliberate attempt to prevent the Liberal Democrat candidates from being elected. He suggested to the Acting Returning Officer that it gave rise to serious questions of 'irregularities or foul play' (in the Petitioner's words). The Acting Returning Officer agreed to recount the block votes but not the mixed votes. In view of the evidence of widespread tampering and the other factors here pleaded, it is averred that a full recount should have been ordered.

And the Petitioner avers that the above evidence constitutes sufficient grounds for the Court to order a recount of the votes. The Petitioner does not seek further investigation of any possible acts or omissions by the Returning Officer's officials if a recount is ordered by the Court.

The Petitioner therefore prays:
(a) That it may be ordered that there be a scrutiny of votes recorded as having been cast in the election and a recount of the ballots;

(b) That it may be ordered that there be production and inspection of documents delivered to and retained by the registration officer following the election, including but not limited to the rejected ballots, pursuant to s 23 of the 1983 Act; Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006, SI 2006/3304, r 3, Sch 2 r 53(l)(a);

(c) That it may be determined that the First, Second and/or Third Respondents were not duly elected and/or that their election was void;

(d) That the Petitioner may have such further or other relief, including his costs, as may be just. Dated 25 June 2021

Nicholas Graham
issued by The Returning Officer for Buckinghamshire Council, of The Gateway, Gatehouse Road, Aylesbury, HP19 8FF

Attachments

MFN0614998.pdf Download

Buckinghamshire County Council

County Hall , Walton Street , Aylesbury , HP20 1UA

http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/ 0845 370 8090

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