Home > Cases > Saeed Aehmed v (1) Muhammed Afzal (2) Stephen Hughes [2008] EWHC B5 (QB)

In the May 2007 local government elections in the Aston ward of Birmingham, the Labour candidate, Muhammed Afzal, was successful. His election was challenged by way of a petition brought by Saeed Aehmed, an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal Democrats. The petition alleged that Mr Afzal was personally and by his agents guilty of illegal practices by making and publishing false statements of fact concerning the personal character and conduct of Mr Aehmed. This “smear campaign” was said to have occurred at or in the vicinity of polling stations on the day of the poll and through leaflets distributed in Aston before and during the poll. It was alleged that, at several polling stations, Labour Party supporters had falsely stated that Mr Aehmed had been arrested for fraud. The Labour Party leaflet had stated that Mr Aehmed had failed to provide satisfactory answers to allegations about receiving thousands of pounds of disability grants.

After a 24-day hearing, the Commissioner dismissed the Petition. In relation to the allegations concerning polling stations, the Commissioner found that the officials working for the Returning Officer had all acted conscientiously and honestly in ensuring that the election ran within the rules and as smoothly as possible. It was held that the polling station staff had fulfilled their duty to keep good order at the polling stations, and allegations that various polling station staff had failed to prevent false statements being made in and around polling stations were dismissed. In relation to the leaflet, the Commissioner held that the document was true in all material respects and that Mr Afzal had reasonable grounds for belief in the matters stated.

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