The issue of the “missing Ballot” boxes continues to dominate with some very perturbing facts emerging.
On the date of the Newcastle court case the Council applied for and were granted the decision that proceedings be conducted without the public being present. This meant that those who had turned up to witness democracy in action were excluded. If the Council were convinced that “we have no reason to believe this was anything more than a mistake after the election” than why seek to deliberately exclude the public, many of whom came from the Borough?
The law requires that ballot box contents be kept for at least 12 months after an election. The Council couldn’t even manage a week at most. Knowing that the law had been broken (and a very important and principled law at that) they failed to call the police in to investigate, instead blaming a causal porter, a worker at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to the Council’s hierarchy (the porter denies any wrong doing). The Council also objected to any of their papers being released to the police, claiming the CPS already had copies and therefore no further disclosure was required. My understanding of the legal process (and according to many legal websites) is that police investigate any potential criminal actions, place all the evidence before the CPS who then decide whether there exists a case strong enough for prosecution. South Tyneside Council for some reason seem to think that the opposite is true and they therefore don’t have to involve the police when faced with potential criminal activity. Very strange indeed.
On the issue of costs, I am sure I once read that Councils and their election officers have a form of central indemnity insurance which covers them for potential legal actions resulting from elections. This sounds entirely justified; the election officer named on legal documents at each election is in effect the “named official” representing the Council. He should therefore not be potentially personally liable for any court findings unless he has personally committed a crime etc. However, if this is the case (I am still trawling old paper files and the web to find the details) why is the Council trying to recover costs from Mr Khan. Surely this indemnity covers them?
These issues lead to some very important contradictions. The Council knew the ballot boxes were missing for nearly 6 months, yet with held the information. They were fully aware that the law had been broken, yet did not involve the police. They insisted the Court case be held with the public excluded, and finally they are attempting to seek financial reimbursement when insurance may cover their costs.
Why do I get the feeling that this whole episode is starting to give of a pong all of its own?