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Friday, 5 November 2010

Phil Woolas MP loses court case over his election

So, Phil Woolas MP has lost the controversial court case and the high court judges have ordered a re-run.
A specially-convened election court - the first of its kind for 99 years - was set up in Saddleworth in September to hear the charges against Mr Woolas.
Phil Woolas is described on the Labour website as;
He is Minister of State at the Home Office responsible for borders and immigration.
I suspect that Ed Miliband, Labour's leader is wondering now if he should have made Woolas the shadow minister for immigration (that is his correct job) given that he has now been found guilty of knowingly making false statements about Mr Watkins (Lib Dem candidate) in campaign literature during the general election.

From the BBC (and many other sources);
Mr Woolas was accused of stirring up racial tensions in his campaign leaflets by suggesting Mr Watkins had pandered to Muslim militants, and had refused to condemn death threats Mr Woolas said he had received from such groups.

Mr Woolas ran a "risky" campaign, the court was told, designed to "galvanise the white Sun vote" because he feared he faced defeat on poling day.

The former minister was also accused of making a false statement that Mr Watkins had reneged on a promise to live within the constituency prior to the election.
Declaring the May poll result void, Mr Justice Nigel Teare and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said Mr Woolas knew all three statements were untrue, and was therefore guilty of illegal practices under election law.

They said:
"In our judgment to say that a person has sought the electoral support of persons who advocate extreme violence, in particular to his personal opponent, clearly attacks his personal character or conduct.

"It suggests that he is willing to condone threats of violence in pursuit of personal advantage.

"Having considered the evidence which was adduced in court we are sure that these statements were untrue. We are also sure that the respondent had no reasonable grounds for believing them to be true and did not believe them to be true."
The case was brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act.
This makes it an offence to publish "any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct" to prevent them being elected - unless they believed it was true and had "reasonable grounds" to do so.

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