Wednesday 15 July 2020

Barnhill by-election result could be over-turned by Courts. Hearing starts tomorrow.

The two day recount hearing for the Barnhill by-election starts tomorrow and as a bombshell curtain raiser the Kilburn Times today LINK  reveals that sacks of votes went astray at Clock Cottage, Kenton, which is one of the Council's storage depot.

The Barnhill Conservatives launched a petition to the High Court alleging that 100 votes were moved from the Conservative pile and transferred to the Labour pile. These were double votes - votes for the two Tories. If the recount transfers 100 votes to the Conservative they will be declared winners.  However the Council confidently told the Kilburn Times that they think the result will be upheld by the courts.

The Count is taking place in Room 73 (largest room) at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. 

The real issue has changed with the discovery of the missing sack which only emerged when the Court asked for the ballot forms.

As readers will know I hold no brief for the Conservative Party but I do believe that elections should be conducted fairly so welcome this hearing to clear up the matter. I was a Green Party candidate at this by-election along with my colleague Pete Murry.

This is the statement made to Wembley Matters by Stefan Voloseniuc who with Kanta Mistry was a Conservative candidate for the ward.

On 23 January this year, we had three by-elections in the London Borough of Brent and I was one of the Conservative candidates for Barnhill Ward, alongside my colleague Kanta Mistry. We worked extremely hard and managed to do well; however, on the evening of the elections during the count, a bundle of our 100 votes had been unduly moved to the Labour Party’s candidates votes, leading them to win by a small margin. Despite our persistent requests on that evening for a recount and a flick through the bundles the Returning Officer (RO) Chief Executive Officer Carolyne Downs rejected our requests entirely. 

After the election I spoke to the Electoral Commission about the RO’s behaviour at the count. I was informed that the RO ought to have allowed a recount and flick through of the bundles on the day. The sacks are supposed to be sealed as per the People’s Act 1983, which states that the RO has a duty to ensure that each sack containing the ballot papers must be sealed and stored securely, to avoid any interference with the ballot papers by any parties. As such, in order to have a recount, we needed to file a Petition at the High Court, asking for a recount. We followed this process and we managed to obtain a hearing to seek an Order for a recount to take place at Court with the Court giving permission for the seals to be removed and the recount to take place in the High Court itself.

To our surprise, a few days before the hearing the RO’s legal representatives informed us that the seals (of the Barnhill Ward alone, and not the other two wards) were found to be broken. We requested evidence in the form of pictures and witness statements. We were informed that further evidence will follow. Upon receiving this evidence in the form of witness statements on behalf of the RO, we discovered that they could not find the seals on the sacks You  will find upon reading the  statement made by the Head of Executive and Member Service, there has been serious breach in following the prescribed lawful procedure. 

Once we came to learn of this significant breach, we requested for the recount (which is listed to take place on 16 and 17 July 2020) to also include a count of all unused ballot papers in order to reconcile the total ballots printed (used and unused), particularly as the sacks were not sealed, open to interference by anyone. 

The RO refused our request for the recount and reconciliation of the unused ballot papers; however, the RO willingly agreed to a recount of the unused ballot papers ONLY IF the recount result went against the Labour Party candidates. I am sure you agree that this clearly points towards partiality in favour of the Labour Party, despite a duty by the RO to remain neutral.

The  witness statement made by Thomas Cattermole, Brent Council Head of Executive and Member Services to the Court sets out the events surrounding the seach for the missing Barnhill papers. 

The storage room at Clock Cottage was visited several times before they were found in a sack labelled "23/5/19 EU elections BP's' in pen. It had no seal and it was dirty on the outside.  It was upright and it was surmised that nothing had fallen out and nothing was found on the floor on checking. Cattermole said that he could only assume the papers were placed in a sack that already had the EU elections label on it. Photographs were taken in accordance with the Judge's Order.

The sack along with others from Barnhill ward is now secured in a locked, limited access area in Brent Civic Centre.


Anonymous said...

Will the hearing be accessible by video link? If so, can it be shared please?

Green Left Committee said...

I am trying to find out. Will update post when I have information.

Philip Grant said...

This may not be relevant to the recount, but I was a little surprised to read that the Head of Member and Executive Services was involved with the ballot papers, which had been "lost".

I met Thomas Cattermole back in 2014, when he appeared to be acting as P.A. to the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Butt.

I believe that he had been appointed to a position at Brent Council by the then Interim Chief Executive, Christine Gilbert, who he had worked for at Ofsted.

I have, in the past, tried to raise concerns over various actions by Cllr. Butt and Ms Gilbert, who he managed to keep in post for nearly three years, although her "interim" role was only meant to last for six months at most.

I have no direct knowledge of what happened at the Barn Hill Ward by-election count, or what has happened to the ballot papers since that night, but I can't help feeling uneasy about what might have happened.

I will be interested to learn the outcome of the High Court hearing this week.

Anonymous said...

His linkedin profile ( shows he was the Principal Support Officer to Labour's Haringey's leader before joining Ofsted.

It is indeed worrying.

Anonymous said...

Is the hearing accessible?

Martin Francis said...

The count is taking place physically and I understand only a few places were available in the allocated room. I do not yet know if the result will be made available on-line. Sorry, very hard to get information.

Anonymous said...

Do we know if the result of the recount is to be announced today? (16/7)

Martin Francis said...

All present had to sign an undertaking not to discuss etc until the 'Senior Master' submits her report.

Anonymous said...

So when does the senior master submit her report? Will we get to know anything tonight? (17/7)

Anonymous said...

Any idea of when we will have a decision?

Martin Francis said...

It is proving really difficult to find out. Parties in the case seem to have been sworn to silence. The Kilburn Times reports September but this is unconfirmed,