Commission says leaflet defect ‘a police matter’

Two articles published elsewhere on this website over the past four days have charted the course of a controversial leaflet cum newsletter that appears to be a clumsy attempt to subvert a local council election due to take place in just over six weeks time. 

The first, headlined Will hate campaign claim second local council Leader?, can be read here; the second, headlined Fact check fallacy, can be read here.

The Leader in question is Cllr Arooj Shah, of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and the hate campaign is orchestrated by an unemployed, discontented failed charity and free schools operator, Raja Miah, who lives in Mossley in the neighbouring Borough of Tameside. 

In response to press enquiries, a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission has now confirmed that the imprint on the leaflet is defective and potentially unlawful. But as Recusant Nine (operated by Miah) is neither registered as a political party nor a campaign group it is a police matter rather than one for the Commission to deal with:

Screenshot 2022-03-22 at 13.55.26

“In terms of the rules, electoral law requires all printed election material to carry an imprint. Our regulatory remit includes ensuring that campaign material by parties and campaigners includes information to identify the person or organisation which has caused it to be published.

“There are separate imprint rules for candidates and local non-party campaigners. These rules apply to campaign material in instances when a candidate is up for election, and they are regulated and enforced by the police, rather than the Commission.

“On the status of ‘Recusant Nine’, the Commission has not received an application to register the group as a party or a non-party campaigner group.

“[The leaflet} is, therefore, not under the regime that we regulate. It is for the police to determine whether the material falls under the candidate regime and if so, whether an offence has taken place”.

Greater Manchester Police has been approached for comment.

Oldham Council were approached early yesterday to confirm whether the matter has been referred to either GMP or the Electoral Commission (or both) and they have, so far, declined to comment.

A prominent Manchester lawyer, formerly a senior Crown prosecutor in the Region, is emphatic that the matter should be reported to the police.

A well known political figure in the Borough says: “If Recusant Nine is neither representing a political party nor a registered campaign group then, given the leaflet’s false, divisive and defamatory content, it can only be regarded as hate material as should be reported as such to the police.

Page last updated: Tuesday 22nd March, 2022 at 1415 hours

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Picture credit: Electoral Commission

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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