Ex-Councillor Jailed for Electoral Fraud

Roxanne Escobales, Guardian (London), Apr. 8

A former Labour councillor who pleaded guilty to postal voting fraud in local elections was today jailed for three years and seven months at Preston crown court.

Judge Peter Openshaw called the case a “public scandal” and told Muhammed Hussain he was passing a stiff sentence on him as an example to others.

Hussain, 61, had arranged for the collection of blank ballot papers that had been posted out to homes in the ward of Blackburn, in Lancashire, where he was standing for office. His campaigners went from house to house asking voters to hand over blank ballot papers, telling them: “Don’t worry we’ll take care of them.”

Hussain won a seat on Blackburn with Darwen council with 1,728 votes and a majority of 685 in the May 2002 local elections. But an investigation found 233 of his postal votes were fraudulent

He admitted conspiring to defraud the returning officer in the Bastwell ward of Blackburn.

The sentencing comes in the same week as six Labour councillors from Birmingham council were found guilty of postal voting fraud in winning two wards during elections for the city council last June. The judge in that case, Richard Mawrey QC, condemned the government for complacency in the face of fraud that, he said, would disgrace a “banana republic”.

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