The four Tower Hamlets petitioners who risked everything to exposed the corrupt regime of Lutfur Rahman are facing bankruptcy.
Debbie Simone Andy Erlam, Azmal Hussain and Angela Moffat were universally lauded for their challenge that saw the mayor kicked out of office.
Leading figures, including corruption czar Sir Eric Pickles, questioned why matters of pressing public interest were left to individuals who, as a result, sustained personal abuse as well as financial hardship.
However, the latest assault on their bank balances comes from their own solicitors.
Debbie Simone told The Sunday Times : “We knew we faced financial ruin if we had lost. What is so hard is that we face financial ruin even though we won.”
The cause of the crisis is an immediate demand for a £200,000 payment from solicitors they employed to recover costs from Mr Rahman, now a bankrupt.
“We seized Rahman’s assets but it cost more in legal fees to seize them than the assets were worth,” Debbie told The Sunday Times. “So we ended up worse than before.”
The four sacked the solicitors which triggered a clause in their contract allowing the firm to demand immediate payment.
They have now appointed another solicitors to broker a deal and they have set up a crowd-funded site to raise £100,000 .
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “The petitioners took great risks to restore integrity to our local democracy. It’s entirely wrong that despite their sacrifice and being proved right they are facing this scale of legal bill.
“The legal system should be applauding the petitioners for challenging corruption, not burdening them to the point of bankruptcy. The perverse message this sends is that you can have justice but only if you can afford it.
“What offends me most is that many of the Tower Hamlets First candidates who benefitted from Lutfur Rahman’s corruption are still receiving public money as they remain councillors. By contrast the petitioners who have done a real duty to society face crippling legal bills.
“It’s clear the law must be changed to protect election petitioners who risk everything to protect democracy, for example setting a reasonable upper limit on their liability for costs.”
Anyone who engages with the law knows they are in a rich person’s world where the stakes are high and the losses potentially life-destroying.
The four petitioners who brought down Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman knew this and still did what others would not – stood up for democracy and honesty.
It is impossible to underestimate the contribution the petitioners have made to the conduct of civic life.
They now face huge legal bills, and financial ruin, despite saving a huge sum of public money from Rahman’s corrupt diversions.
It remains the most staggering aspect of the Rahman scandal that such a massive perversion of public life only came to light because four citizens rolled the dice.
We owe them.
Follow The Wharf on Twitter @the_wharf
Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook