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Former councillor launches appeal against ‘illegally run’ election

Mr Vernon Williams with his petition.

Mr Vernon Williams holding his petition.

A former councillor who stood in the local government elections on 21 May this year has launched a high court appeal against the returning officer, accusing him of breaking the law.

Mr Vernon Williams, who ran as an independent candidate in Kings Park ward, claims that the returning officer Tim Shields did not follow correct election protocol when he supervised the vote count.

According to The Representation of the People Act 1983, returning officers should take reasonable steps to count the votes on the ballot papers “as soon as practicable within the period of four hours, starting with the close of the poll”.

Mr Williams claims that Mr Shields broke this law when he did not begin the vote count until 3pm on May 22.

Mr Williams also argues that the ballot boxes should have been kept under lock and key at the Town Hall, rather than being stored at Britannia Leisure Centre, which he called “the most unsafe place you can imagine”.

Labour councillors Sharon Patrick, Tom Rahilly and Rebecca Rennison were elected in Kings Park ward with over 2,000 votes each, while Mr Williams gained 134.

The independent candidate told the Hackney Citizen: “When he started the count the following day he [the returning officer] had broken the law – it is as simple as that.

“The act places a mandatory duty on the returning officer that should he for any reason miss the count, he must within 30 days make a statement, and he must publicise this statement. He did not do this either.”

Following three hearings, a judge has now set a trial for late November.

Mr Williams has also criticised the Council for not correctly advertising the legal action, after an incomplete copy of his petition was found on a Town Hall noticeboard. He said: “I had to threaten an injunction against [the returning officer] to get him to do it.

“He made up a summary and put it at the back of Hackney Today, with the details all twisted. It was not a clear representation of my petition.”

Tim Shields also faced criticism in the 2010 elections after his organisation of the Hackney polls was dubbed  “an embarrassment” by Hackney MPs Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier.

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “It is not appropriate for the Council to comment on an on-going legal process.”

 



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