Thomas Bridge 23 April 2015

Tower Hamlets mayor found guilty of corrupt practices

Mayor’s Lutfur Rahman’s election victory at Tower Hamlets has been declared void after the controversial figure was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.

Judge Richard Mawrey this morning handed down his verdict after a 10-week hearing, concluding Rahman had breached election rules.

Election commissioner Richard Mawrey later ruled Rahman’s 2014 election victory – where he beat Labour rival John Biggs to become mayor of Tower Hamlets – void.

Four residents had called for the vote to be re-run, alleging Rahman has employed ‘corrupt and illegal practices’ to emerge victories under the Tower Hamlets First banner.

Rahman has denied the allegations.

The court had heard evidence from a handwriting expert that suggested hundreds of ballot papers could have been filled out by the same person.

Rahman had said there was ‘little, if any’ evidence of wrongdoing against him.

The ruling comes after communities secretary Eric Pickles sent commissioners into Tower Hamlets BC to take control of a string of duties and check the town hall was being properly run.

Pickles said he would now act to ‘stamp out’ the ‘culture of corruption in Tower Hamlets’ and could raise the powers of the locally based commissioners following this ‘damning’ judgement.

Responding to the verdict, Pickles said: ‘I sent in commissioners into the dysfunctional mayoral administration following the mismanagement of public money and the 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. 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 7 May.

‘We must also challenge those who seek to spread further division in light of the ruling. There can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st Century Britain.’

In a statement, Tower Hamlets First said: ‘Today’s judgment has 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.

‘We are seeking further legal advice on the matter in relation to a judicial review. A more detailed statement clarifying our response will be released shortly.’

Tower Hamlets Council is yet to respond.

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