As the press today notes Phil Woolas has failed in his attempt before the High Court to overturn the previous decision of the Election court.
Decision of the Election Court
The Election Court previously held that Woolas knowingly and deliberately misled his constituency as a result of three false statements made against his Liberal Democrat opponent during his electoralcampaign designed to ‘galvanise the white Sun vote’. His election was consequently declared void and he was barred from seeking relection for three years.
False attacks on personal character/conduct
The case hinged on section 106 of the Representation of the People Act. This makes it an offence to publish “any false statement of fact in relation to a candidate’s personal character or conduct” to prevent them being elected – unless such statements are believed to be true and there are “reasonable grounds” for this.
Woolas made three false statements about his opponent. One of these was the notorious allegation that he was wooing the extremist vote whilst also condoning violence from muslim militants who had allegedly issued threats against Woolas himself.
High Court judgement
The High Court in their judgement held that two out of the three statements were false personal attacks fo the purposes of section 106 of the Act. The third, whilst false in the same way as the others was a ‘political attack’ and not within the scope of the Act – this was the allegation that his opponent did not intend to live in his constituency.
In relation to Article 10 ECHR (free speech) arguments, the Court held that the right to freedom of expression “does not extend to the publishing, before or during an election, of a statement that is made dishonestly.”
The effect of the above is that the election of Woolas remains void and he continues to be barred from seeking relection for three years. The Press reports that Woolas will not be appealing against the judgement.
We should now expect a by-election in Oldham East, but also the appointment of a new shadow Immigration Minister sometime soon. In short, as D: Ream once sang ‘things can only get better’…