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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Vote-rigging ex-councillor jailed
Muhammed Hussain
Hussain admitted arranging the collection of blank voting papers
A former Labour councillor has been jailed for three and a half years for rigging postal votes.

Muhammed Hussain, 61, from Logwood Street, Blackburn, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud local elections in May 2002.

He won a 685 majority in the elections for Bastwell ward on Blackburn Council.

But his lawyer, Philip Andrews, said in mitigation that the fraudulent votes would not have affected the final result. Hussain would still have won.

Judge Peter Openshaw said Mr Andrews' argument was "extremely unattractive".

Earlier this week, in a separate case involving Labour councillors in Birmingham, a judge said the UK's postal voting system would "disgrace a banana republic".

'Stolen votes'

An investigation found 233 votes were fraudulent, and Mr Hussain had arranged for campaigners to ask voters to hand over blank voting papers, telling them: "Don't worry, we'll take care of them".

The Tories, who came second, complained that more than 75% of people had applied for postal votes.

Mr Andrews handed in a petition of 700 signatures supporting the defendant, and said Mr Hussain had been of exemplary good character and a pillar of the community, but had now lost his standing.

But Mr Openshaw said Hussain was "entirely unfit" for public office but he was not allowed under current law to disqualify him from holding future posts.

He said it was a "public scandal" and told Hussain he was passing a "stiff" sentence to set an example to others.

He said the current postal voting system was "wide open to fraud", adding: "The defendant has literally stolen votes."

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