The infamous former mayor of Tower Hamlets has returned to court in an attempt to overturn a ruling that banned him from running for election for five years.
Lutfur Rahman was barred from holding office after a High Court case in 2015 found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices in the 2014 mayoral election.
However, no criminal action was ever taken against Mr Rahman. Earlier this year it emerged that 27 files of evidence held by the Director of Public Prosecutions were never passed onto the Metropolitan Police, while the Met revealed officers decided not to pass on other files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) because it was deemed insufficient evidence.
Scotland Yard agreed to reinvestigate Mr Rahman in February this year after police watchdog HMIC was formally approached to investigate police inaction in the case.
Mr Rahman is now applying for a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the ruling of the electoral court. His argument is that the ruling contravenes article six of the European Convention on Human Rights , which protects the right to a fair trial and says everyone charged with a criminal offence must be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
Mr Rahman’s barrister Paul Bowen QC said that it “baffles belief” that his client had not been subject to an investigation by police before this year, despite the fact Mr Rahman had been told he was not a “named suspect” in ongoing criminal proceedings by the Met.
He also suggested that, if he was under a criminal investigation, he should not have been found guilty in an electoral court - which, like a criminal court, demands allegations are proved beyond all reasonable doubt - before he faced a criminal trial.
Public bodies cannot suggest someone is guilty of something during active criminal procedures until it has been proven in a criminal court. Mr Bowen’s argument is that if Mr Rahman was under active police investigation at the time of the electoral court ruling then his rights to a fair trial should have been protected.
On the first day of proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday, May 17, Mr Bowen said: “Was Mr Rahman a suspect between May 2014 when the election happened and February 2015 when the electoral court hearing commenced?
“If not, was he a suspect from when the electoral court procedure began in February 2015 by virtue of the involvement of the CPS and the Metropolitan Police in that process?
“If the answer is no, was he a suspect after the electoral court judgement was given?
“It baffles belief to say he was not a suspect.
“The electoral court decided on his guilt before he had been found guilty directly under the law.”
Mr Bowen also criticised the language used in the electoral court ruling which he argued, because of the use of words such as “allegation”, “charge” and “guilty”, was “indistinguishable from the language used in a criminal court.”
He added: “There is nothing in that judgement that raises a clear distinction between the findings made by an electoral court and findings made by a criminal court and that’s for good reason. They are exactly the same.”
The trial continues.
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