Council chief executive cleared of blame in electoral fraud case

RAY MORGAN was cleared of any wrong-doings in the election scandal.

Woking’s chief executive, who acted as the returning officer during the election, was praised by Richard Mawrey QC as he found Lib Dem Mohammed Bashir guilty of electoral fraud.

The checkered past of voting in the ward, which was the subject of national scrutiny in 2005, bore no reflection on Mr Morgan, explained Mr Mawrey.

He said: “The fact that there was widespread and successful fraud in the ward is no criticism of the conduct of the election by the returning officer.

“Mr Morgan was an impressive witness and I was left in no doubt that the electoral affairs of Woking are run as well as one could possibly expect.”

The electoral commissioner went on to explain that Mr Morgan’s eagerness to clean up the area was influential in resolving the case.

“Mr Morgan was clearly irritated and frustrated that there had long been persistent allegations of fraud in the ward, but those making the allegations had always, in the past, been unable to substantiate them.

“He is also somewhat frustrated that the powers of a returning officer are too limited to allow him to take effective steps to nip electoral fraud in the bud.”

The judgement exonerated Mr Morgan in respect of his arrangements for both the registration of electors and the conduct of the election in May 2012.

The chief executive confirmed that there will be a new election later in the year, and said that if it were within his power, he would consider making the ward exempt from postal voting in the future.

He added: “Maybury and Sheerwater, because of cultural issues in that community, without adopting a full Western approach to democracy and still operating behaviours common to village mentality in rural Pakistan, still cause me great concern.”

Meanwhile Mr  Bashir says he is consulting his legal team over a possible appeal to the High Court ruling.

Speaking to the News & Mail after he was found guilty of electoral fraud, Mr Bashir was adamant the judge had come to the wrong conclusion.

He said: “I am really upset and I am discussing it with my legal team. The result was shocking for me and it is my right to appeal.

“Hopefully, I will appeal against it, as I would like to clear my name.”

However, it is now a question of whether the Crown Prosecution Service will take any action.

The case is in the hands of the police, who were present at the hearing.

They are carrying out a criminal investigation into corrupt and illegal practices during last year’s Woking elections.

A spokesman confirmed: “Surrey Police are currently investigating an allegation of electoral fraud around the local government election in May 2012, in the Maybury and Sheerwater area.

“The investigation is currently ongoing and the force is unable to comment further on the matter at this time.”

Summing up the case, Electoral Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC said: “The media and public are fully alive to the threat that electoral fraud poses to our democracy.”

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