Julie Green, the Conservative candidate for the Marsden West ward of Nelson Town Council, was last week victorious in the High Court. This confirmed her election victory in May and ordered she should now be allowed to take up her seat on the council – https://caselaw.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ewhc/kb/2023/2034 after a case of mistaken declaration.
Ms Green received 65 more votes than her opponent (Ms Patricia Hannah-Wood) at the elections on 4th May. However, she was prevented from taking her position as councillor after the Returning Officer made a mistake and declared the runner-up as the winner. The Returning Officer advised that electoral law meant the only way to correct this was via an election petition. Ms Green duly issued a petition, after which Ms Hannah-Wood resigned her seat.
Things took a turn following this resignation. The Returning Officer argued that the petition could not now succeed, with her barrister even going so far as to argue the legislation on resignations meant the petition was now hopeless and that Ms Green should pay the Returning Officer’s legal costs.
Julie explained “I was really shocked by this. Clearly there was a mistake here, and I fully appreciate we are all human and mistakes happen. I was told the only way to make this right was to go to Court, so I did.
Yet when the person who lost the election decided to resign from the seat she never won everything changed. The Returning Officer’s London legal team, which included a leading election law KC, then argued the votes cast on 4th May should be ignored and that I should have to withdraw my petition, thus losing money spent to issue it and opening me up to paying her legal fees. I was, to put it mildly, really quite angry and concerned about this.
Happily, I was supported by a brilliant legal team who agreed to work for me on a no win-no fee basis. Without them I don’t know what I would have done.
I am delighted that the Court has agreed that the votes people cast should be respected. I can’t wait to start doing the job I should have started months ago for the people of Marsden West ward.
Julie’s solicitor James Roochove (from the law firm Astraea Linskills) said “This was a really important case. If the Returning Officer’s argument had succeeded it would have caused chaos to the way we challenge election results in the UK.
It would have given the person being challenged in Court an effective power of veto over the whole process by resigning. As a result, potentially costing petitioners tens of thousands and, in cases like Julie’s, could see perfectly legitimate election results being ignored and public money being wasted on unnecessary by-elections. Happily, this judgment rules that out.
I’m delighted to be able to help Julie through what has been a very stressful time and I am also indebted to the invaluable help provided by her barrister Greg Callus of 5RB.
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