High Court hearing into Waddon election fiasco cancelled
A High Court hearing to investigate claims dozens of people were unable to vote in the May 6 elections, because of long queues at Waddon polling stations, has been cancelled.
Unsuccessful Waddon Labour candidate David Christison was forced to withdraw his petition because he could not get legal aid to cover the cost of the five day hearing.
He issued the election petition to the Chief Returning Officer Jon Rouse last year, after an estimated 80 people were turned away as the pollings station closed, because of long queues.
Last week Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC accepted the withdrawal of the petition.
However he said the decision by the Legal Services Commission not to grant public funding was a “very poor exercise of judgement”.
He said: “With considerable reluctance, I grant permission to withdraw the petition. That reluctance is not simply because the petitioner might have been proved right, but also because the returning officer has been denied the opportunity to put his case.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the Labour group, said: “This judgement contains a stinging criticism of the authorities for not funding the remainder of the case, its quite clear that the Commissioner believes that there was sufficient concern about what happened on election day last year in Croydon that he wanted to see the hearing proceed.
“People have died fighting for the right to vote and the Council should take this issue very seriously indeed as lessons must be learnt for the future.”
Councillor Mike Fisher, leader of the council, said: “It was appalling that legal aid was obtained for the Labour Party candidate to bring an entirely vexatious claim when it was clear that the legitimate outcome of the election result was never in question.
“Labour have been playing political games with public money in a manner that is unfortunately typical of bad losers. They profess to be on the side of saving money; in reality they will squander it whenever it suits them.”
Mr Christison was one of the three Labour council hopefuls who stood for election in Waddon, historically one of the most marginal wards in the borough.
He polled 500 fewer votes than his nearest Conservative rival but said he issued the election petition to challenge the “scandal” of people being denied the right to vote.