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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 19:59 GMT
Judge hits out at postal voting
(From L to R): Mohammed Kazi, Muhammed Afzal, Mohammed Islam
The councillors deny wrongdoing
A judge has condemned the postal voting system as "an open invitation to fraud" as the country prepares for a forthcoming general election.

Richard Mawrey QC is sitting as election commissioner hearing allegations of fraud during last year's local elections in Birmingham.

He is hearing petitions lodged against Birmingham Labour councillors accused of abusing the postal ballot system.

Six councillors are accused in two separate allegations, which they deny.

'Mutual loathing'

He made his criticisms as lawyers in the case brought by Liberal Democrat supporters against three elected representatives in the Aston ward made their final submissions.

The Deputy High Court Judge told the court: "If I come to the conclusion that all the respondents in both cases were entirely innocent, I would not neglect to point out the law as it stands is an open invitation to fraud.

"I could not come to any other conclusion."

Jerry Hayes, representing two of the councillors, Mohammad Kazi and Mohammad Islam, described to the court how the poll had been conducted in an atmosphere of "mutual loathing" between Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters.

Mr Hayes said Liberal Democrat supporters had been "up to their elbows in mischief and skullduggery" and they had brought no evidence of wrongdoing against either of his clients.

'Niceties of law'

Mr Hayes said police officers who walked into a deserted warehouse in the city in which a number of men, including his clients, were found together with hundreds of ballot papers had unearthed no evidence of wrongdoing.

Mr Mawrey said he understood Mr Hayes' position but stressed that rank and file police officers could not be expected to know the niceties of election law.

The judge did accept that allegations of bribery and undue influence made against the three councillors, the third being Mohammad Afzal, had not been proved.

Mr Mawrey finished hearing final submissions in the Aston submission and said he would reserve judgment in the case until 4 April.

The court learned on Tuesday that a West Midlands Police investigation was under way into allegations of perjury arising out of the Bordesley Green petition, which was brought against the ward's three Labour councillors by the People's Justice Party.

Mr Mawrey finished hearing final submissions in the Bordesley Green petition and confirmed he would be giving his judgement on 4 April.




SEE ALSO:
Vote fraud trial calls activists
14 Mar 05 |  West Midlands
Labour trio's 'vote-rig factory'
02 Mar 05 |  West Midlands
Election Court hears fraud claims
21 Feb 05 |  West Midlands


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