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The Divisional Court has rejected a bid by Lutfur Rahman, former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, to challenge his current disqualification from standing for elected office.

Mr Rahman was convicted by an Election Court on 23 April 2015 of personal guilt in making false statements, and engaging in the corrupt practices of bribery and undue influence during the Mayoral elections in May 2014.  On 16 March 2016, the Metropolitan Police issued a press release indicating that its assessment of allegations of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets was complete.  Mr Rahman was not subject thereafter to criminal prosecution.  In a judicial review claim, Mr Rahman sought to argue that the police decision not to refer a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision amounted to an acquittal for the purposes of Article 6(2) of the ECHR, or at least engaged the presumption of innocence, so that the prior civil decision of the Election Court required to be quashed.  The Divisional Court (Lloyd-Jones LJ and Supperstone J) rejected these arguments, holding:

  • That Article 6(2) was not engaged at the time of the Election Court proceedings or indeed thereafter (paras 48-56, 71).
  • That the Election Court’s decision was in any event framed in such a way as to make it unarguable that it conflicted with the presumption of innocence (paras 61-62, 72-75).
  • That any challenge based upon the proposition that Article 6(2) had been engaged at the time of the Election Court proceedings should be refused upon the further ground that it should have been raised before the Election Court at the outset of its proceedings (para 87).

In the course of its Judgment, the Divisional Court gave useful guidance as to the scope of Article 6(2) (paras 34-42, 65-70), and the circumstances in which a person can be treated as having been “charged” for the purposes of Article 6 (paras 52-54). The Court also observed that it may be appropriate for the Law Commission to consider the interaction between between the civil and criminal dimensions of electoral oversight in its current review of electoral law in the UK (para 73).

James Segan acted as sole counsel for the Metropolitan Police, and made the lead submissions for the successful opponents to the application.