Judge rules Hackney’s local election was above board

Vernon Williams' election campaign leaflet.

Vernon Williams' election campaign leaflet. - Credit: Archant

The Commissioner at a hearing into whether May’s elections in Hackney were conducted fairly has ruled that everything was above board.

But disgruntled candidate Vernon Williams, who brought the petition against the returning officer Tim Shields and the three Labour candidates elected in the ward in which he stood, has dubbed the trial a “sham” and vowed to fight on with a Judicial review of the decision.

Independent candidate Mr Williams claims Mr Shields did not follow protocol when supervising the count

The Representation of the People Act 1983 states the returning officer should take “reasonable steps” to counting the votes given on the ballot papers “as soon as practicable within the period of four hours, starting with the close of the poll”.

But vote counting for the local council and Hackney Mayoral elections on Thursday May 21 did not start until 3pm the next day, and counting for the European election votes took place on Sunday.

Mr Williams also claims security at the Britannia leisure centre was secure for storing ballot boxes, and “raises a rebuttable presumption that interference and tampering of the ballot boxes and ballot papers took place”.

At a hearing at Stoke Newington Town Hall last Wednesday the Commissioner ruled within hours the three councillors for King’s Park ward were duly elected, and will give his reasons at a later date.

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Mr Williams, who had hoped the trial would be adjourned, refused to take part in it after his appeal for full disclosure from the council was refused by the judge.

He said: “I asked court to order disclosure, because normally in litigation of all major criminal or civil matters, disclosure is generally ordered, otherwise the court cannot properly investigate what happened.

“There is no malice or ill will toward anyone involved in the local elections, I took the court action because an election must not only be fair, but seen to be fair.

“Only the Parliamentary election rules quantify the time period, but all the other election rules use the terms “practicable” and “reasonable” after the election.”

The case had three successful hearings at the High Court since June before the trial began last week.

Labour candidates Sharon Patrick, Tom Rahilly and Rebecca Rennison were all declared winners in Kings Park ward, with over 2,000 votes each, while Mr Williams gained 134.

Hackney Council declined to comment.