A report published today by the Electoral Commission, Analysis of cases of alleged electoral fraud in the UK in 2016, makes painful reading for anyone who knows the reality of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets.
The report is advertised as Electoral fraud: high stakes highlighted in new report which begs the question “If the stakes are so high why do so few people every get arrested and jailed?”
It seems that of 260 cases of alleged electoral fraud across the entire UK in 2016 only two resulted in convictions and ‘suspects in six further cases accepted police cautions. At the time of publication, police forces are awaiting prosecution advice in relation to a further five cases and 40 cases remain under investigation.’
Below are four cases where the guilty only received a metaphorical slap on the wrist.
EU Referendum, Cheshire West and Chester voting area – personation in a polling station
An elector voted at a polling station using his mother’s polling card in the morning and voted in his own right at the same polling station in the afternoon. Polling station staff alerted the police after they became suspicious. The police established that this was a mistake as he did not realise that he had committed an offence. The police spoke at length with the person who accepted a police caution.
EU referendum, Oxford voting area – personation in a polling station
The offender (who had moved away from the area) attended his former local polling station wishing to vote there. He was not allowed to vote there as he was no longer registered to vote. The offender had the same first name as the person currently registered at his old address. The offender left the polling station but returned to vote later claiming to be the person currently registered at his old address. He voted under the name of the current elector. The offender fully admitted the offence of personation in Police interview and, after CPS advice was sought, he was offered and accepted a police caution.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council – personation in a polling station
The offender gave the name and address of a registered elector at a polling station and cast a vote as that elector. The actual elector arrived to vote later in the day and was given a tendered ballot paper. The offender was identified from a CCTV recording and interviewed by the police. He admitted the offence and accepted a police caution.
Preston City Council – false statement on a nomination form
The offender, who was an election agent for the Conservative party, forged signatures on 8 candidate nomination forms. The offender was subsequently interviewed by the police and admitted the offences, and accepted a police caution.
The report does at least specifically reference the fiasco that is the inability of the Metropolitan Police to properly investigate allegations of criminality by Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets First and the Crown Prosecution Service to actually, er, prosecute someone.
Maybe it’s just too much bother?
Here is the main extract of the report relating to Tower Hamlets:
“1.13 In March 2016 the MPS announced that that no charges would be brought in relation to allegations of electoral fraud following the May 2014 elections in Tower Hamlets. A statement by the MPS explained that, following assessment of information arising from the trial and the April 2015 judgement of the election court in relation to the petition challenging the result of the May 2014 Mayoral and local government elections in Tower Hamlets, and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, “a decision has been made
that there is insufficient evidence that criminal offences had been committed”.
1.14 We believe that there remains significant public interest in explaining as fully and clearly as possible the basis for the decision which was made in relation to the allegations of electoral fraud at the May 2014 elections in Tower Hamlets. There has been ongoing and widespread coverage and public comment on allegations of electoral fraud at the May 2014 elections in Tower Hamlets, as well as the lengthy election petition trial. As recently as February this year, the Police and Crime Committee of the Greater London
Assembly held a special evidence session to consider the outcome of the MPS investigations.
1.15 We have previously made recommendations for the MPS about communicating the outcome of investigations into allegations of electoral fraud, in particular following allegations of fraud at the May 2012 elections in Tower Hamlets. We recommended in 2013 that the MPS should “review its communication strategy for future elections to ensure there is an appropriate balance between informing individual complainants about the outcomes of investigations, and providing more general assurance that the police are
responding to concerns about electoral fraud and thoroughly investigating allegations.
1.16 Without further information to explain the basis for this decision, we remain concerned that voters and campaigners are unlikely to understand why no criminal prosecutions have been initiated following the election petition trial, and this may lead to a loss of confidence in the approach and commitment of the MPS and CPS to dealing with allegations of electoral fraud in future.”
The last sentence ‘this may lead to a loss of confidence in the approach and commitment of the MPS and CPS to dealing with allegations of electoral fraud in future.’ is a masterpiece of understatement.
Many in Tower Hamlets have completely lost confidence in the MPS and CPS to do anything about electoral fraud despite it being endemic and carried out in an industrial manner.
Electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets has been – and will continue to be unless stopped – on a scale and level of complexity that is astounding even to those who have spent the last few years investigating it.
The current belief that everything is nice and squeaky clean is at best deluded, at worst building the foundations for future wrongdoing. Yes the DCLG Commissioners and the administration of Mayor John Biggs have achieved a huge amount to fix things, but there is still an ingrained cultural belief that block voting, ‘treats’ for votes and systematic postal vote fraud are completely acceptable.
Allegations of electoral crimes need to be pursued with more vigour by the police service and, where appropriate, prosecutions brought by the CPS with the courts then reinforcing this with custodial sentences.
Don’t hold your breath folks.