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Election Court dismisses challenge to election result over statements in leaflet

A Labour councillor in Hartlepool has successfully defended an election petition brought by a defeated opponent who said he had been the victim of a false claim.

Labour’s Jennifer Elliott ousted previous Independent councillor Bob Buchan by only 10 votes in the Fens & Greatham ward in May 2021.

Sarah Sackman, of Matrix Chambers, who acted for Cllr Elliott, said Mr Buchan had brought a challenge under s.106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (false statements as to candidates).

He alleged Cllr Elliott had committed an election offence by publishing a false statement in an election leaflet which alleged that he voted for a controversial housing development when he had not.

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The High Court held there was a clear distinction between statements relating to political conduct and those concerning personal conduct.

Ms Sackman said: “It is axiomatic that the casting of a vote on a planning committee by an elected member is a political act.

“Since the election statement related to the petitioner’s political position and did not attack his personal character or conduct it fell outside s.106 and no election offence was committed.”

Judge Philip Kramer ruled that although Mr Buchan did not vote in favour of the plan, Ms Elliott claim was an honest mistake.

The BBC has reported that Mr Buchan now faces a £48,000 costs bill.

Mark Smulian

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