Friday 19 February 2021

Conservative petitioners lose Barnhill By-Election court case and will have to pay £68,000 costs


The result declared on January 24th 2020

The Conservative candidates in the Barnhill by-election case today lost their case against Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Returning Officer in a Queens Bench hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The recount ordered as a result of the petition by losing candidates Stefan Voloseniuc and Kanta Mistry revealed only a handful of votes difference in the by-election declaration which had given the Labour candidates Gaynor Lloyd and Mansoor Akram victory. The Conservative allegation that a 100 vote bundle had been placed in the wrong bundle was therefore unfounded.

The Court also found that Carolyn Downs' refusal of a recount in the early hours of January 24th 2020 had been reasonable and vindicated by the Court recount. Mr Justice Holgate said that the petitioners had not only requested a recount but their intention was clearly to unseat the Labour candidates. 

Mr Justice Holgate said that after the Court recount (the result of which had not been publicised) the petitioners had taken no action for 4 months which had caused Downs to seek a special case.

The by-election had been declared correctly and this was not now in dispute between the parties concerned.

On the matter of the missing seal on a bag of votes, Brent Council had been open about the matter and informed the parties immediately and the explanation that the cause was the poor quality of the seals at the time accepted.

The petitioners were ordered to pay costs of £30,000 to Carolyn Downs as Returning Officer  and a total of £38,000 legals costs to Cllr Lloyd and Cllr Akram.

When there was some delay and prevarication over the costs negotiations Mr Justice Holgate said that this should have been decided between parties before the hearing. The difference between the parties was small and a detailed assessment would add disproportionately to the costs. Clearly irritated, he said that this was a very, very. very small issue and urged those involved to get it into perspective - he had a very large planning case to decide.

Ironically, Stefan Voloseniuc had been a member of the Labour Party in Barnhill ward shortly before he switched parties to the Conservatives. Maybe not a good move.


Paul Lorber said...

Should we have a recount of the Court decision? More seriously Brent Council should start discussions about a recount Protocol for future elections to avoid this type nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Brent Council need to make sure the counting process is more robust in the future. We cannot have a repeat of the by-election fiasco.
1. Flicking through the bundles should have been allowed as per election commission rules.
2. Ballot papers should be bagged and sealed. we cannot have a situation where Brent Council buys seals that fall off.
3. No more excuse that the bags with ballot papers was dirty and was replaced in another bag by Brent council, where is the credibility of the count.
4. Ballot bags that could not be found for days as they were deposited in another building in a European Election bag that took place in error.

Anonymous said...

Martin who paid Carolyn Down (Brent Council Returning Officer) Gaynor Lloyd and Mansoor Akram (Labour Councillors) legal costs?

Martin Francis said...

The award was made against the petitioners - whether that will be paid by the two losing candidates or Brent Conservative Party I don't know. It will pat the legal costs of Carolyn Downs/Brent Council and the two Labour councillors.

Martin Francis said...

They have to pay half of each payment within 28 days and the balance within another 28 days.

Martin Francis said...

21.25 'pay the legal costs'

Anonymous said...

One of the losing candidate (Stefan Voloseniuc) can afford. Brent Conservative Party was not the petitioner, so I doubt they are liable/will pay.

Paul Lorber said...

To answer one of the questions. Carolyn Downs legal costs would have been paid by Brent Council and had she lost it would have been a loss for Brent Council Tax payers. As the Conservatives lost and now have to pay those costs hopefully the Brent Tax payers do not lose out.
The legal costs of the two Labour Candidates would have been initially paid by the Labour Party and the Conservatives will have to pay the Labour Party as a result of losing out.
I expect that it is the Conservative Party (who may have an insurance policy to cover these types of situations) who covered all the costs incurred by the Conservative Candidates in this case.

Colin Gray said...

If Brent Conservative Party sanctioned the election petition in the first place, then more fool them: the petition was obsessed by the belief that the facial expressions of opposition party campaigners are a way of determining facts.

After reading the petition nearly a year ago, I wrote on an election discussion forum that it (the petition) was "woefully short of 'facts', and without agreed facts there can be no 'Special Case'. It (the petition) is all a bit 'he said, she said, he saw, she saw', and lacks a 'magic bullet'. I have my doubts it can succeed."

In reply to 'Anonymous' above, Brent Council DOES have robust counting procedures: the judges vindicated the Returning Officer, her protocols and her refusal for granting a recount at the time. The petition was vexatious.

Anonymous said...

Paul Lorber says bove: "More seriously Brent Council should start discussions about a recount Protocol for future elections to avoid this type nonsense."

Why? The claim was decided against, and the decision found to be sound.

Anonymous said...

Who advised Conservative candidates to file the petition, Cllr Suresh Kansagra, Leader of the Conservative Group in Brent Council??? According to Brent Council members register of interests his profession is Solicitor.