London

Up to '15,000 votes forged' at Tower Hamlets election, court hears

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets Image copyright PA
Image caption Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman denies any wrongdoing

As many as 15,000 votes were forged or affected by intimidation at an east London election, a court has heard.

Four petitioners allege Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman used "corrupt and illegal practices" in May 2014, when he was elected as mayor.

Petitioner Andy Erlam said his "guesstimate" was that up to 15,000 votes were forged and that "intimidation of voters" took place at more than 40 polling stations.

Mr Rahman denies any wrongdoing.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Petitioners Angela Moffat, Andy Erlam and Azmal Hussein have accused Lutfur Rahman of electoral fraud

The group have taken action against Mr Rahman, the independent mayor of Tower Hamlets and leader of the Tower Hamlets First (THF) party, under the 1983 Representation Of The People Act at a special High Court hearing.

They want Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey to declare the May 2014 election null and void.

Mr Erlam told the court that statistics showed about 240,000 people lived in the borough with 180,000 registered to vote and his "guesstimate" was that between 10,000 and 15,000 votes had been forged or affected by intimidation.

'Fight for democracy'

He told Mr Mawrey there was evidence that police at many, if not most, of the 40 polling stations had either "refused" to intervene or taken "exceptionally ineffective measures" to stop intimidation.

He claimed there were witnesses with "important evidence" who were frightened of coming forward.

Mr Erlam stood for election to Tower Hamlets council on an anti-corruption ticket, but denied that the decision to launch legal action was personal.

He told the court: "It's about democracy. It is to be defended and fought for and it should not be taken for granted."

Mr Rahman has said there is "little if any" evidence of wrongdoing against him and his lawyers have described the group of four's claims as "invention", "exaggeration" and "in some cases downright deliberately false allegations".

The hearing continues.

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