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Councillors in Buckinghamshire defeat High Court challenge to their election

Three independent councillors in Buckinghamshire have defeated a High Court challenge to their election in 2021.

The Wycombe Independents trio were elected for the Totteridge and Bowerdean ward with their lowest-placed candidate on 1,013 votes, only 98 ahead of the highest placed Liberal Democrat.

Petitioner Anwar Rashid, one of the defeated Liberal Democrats, sought to have the result declared void due to alleged irregularities in the count.

Master Eastham ordered a supervised recount but this produced only minor changes in the votes recorded, none of which affected the outcome. He dismissed the petition.

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An unusual feature of this was that Thames Valley Police said they were conducting a related investigation and “to preserve the forensic integrity of the ballot papers and corresponding number lists two pairs of latex gloves be worn by those handling [them]”.

Alex Temple, a solicitor at law firm Bindmans, which represented Wycombe Independents Julia Wassell, Imran Hussain and Steve Guy, said: “The court decided, after a long and difficult year for our clients, that there was no reason the petition should proceed to trial, and instead dismissed it.”

He said Mr Rashid had been ordered to pay the legal costs of the councillors and the council.

The three councillors said in a statement: “An election petition is a very serious process. It calls into question the validity of an election and forces elected officials to divert their time and energy to defending it.

“This does a disservice to our constituents and those voters who put their faith in us. We are therefore pleased to be drawing a line under this episode and moving on with the job for which we were elected.”

They said the police were still investigating “a series of suspicious events during the election period and on the night of the count”.

Thames Valley Police have been approached for comment.

Mark Smulian

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