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Jail for polling clerk for role in Derby election fraud

July 27, 2013 10:39 AM
By Aly Walsh in Derby Telegraph
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

A POLLING clerk has been jailed for her role in a fraud at local government elections in Derby last May.

Nasreen Akhtar, who was a polling station clerk at the Madeley Centre Polling Station, in Arboretum Ward, helped her nieces, Tameena Ali and Samra Ali, to cast fraudulent votes by pretending to be someone else.

Akhtar, 47, was yesterday jailed at Derby Crown Court for 14 months.

Cousins Tameena Ali and Samra Ali were given eight-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months.

Tameena Ali cast her vote for the Labour candidate Gulfraz Nawaz in the name of Noshiela Maqsood, who is no relation, whereas Samra Ali left before marking the ballot paper.

Maqsood, 24, who lied to police saying she had personally voted, was also given an eight-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Mr Nawaz won the election by 14 votes over Liberal Democrat candidate Farhatullah Khan.

And now the Lib Dems are calling for Mr Nawaz to step down so that a new election can be held.

The Liberal Democrats' head of campaigns in the East Midlands, Stuart Bray, said: "The only honourable course of action left for the Labour councillor elected at the time is for him to acknowledge that he did not win fairly and immediately resign his seat so a fresh election can be held and the true verdict of the people of Arboretum Ward can be made known."

Mr Nawaz was not available for comment following the sentencing, but Councillor Paul Bayliss, leader of Derby City Council, said there would not be a by-election. He said the time limit for people to apply for a re-run of the process had expired.

Mr Bayliss said: "I have every confidence in Councillor Nawaz serving the people of the Arboretum Ward."

Akhtar, 46, of Rosehill Street, admitted two counts of misconduct in a public office; Tameena Ali and Samra Ali, both of St Chad's Road, admitted personation; Maqsood, of Holcombe Street, pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court was told that pressure had been put on each of the women from other people to commit the offences.

The four women sat in the dock with their heads bowed as Judge John Wait sentenced them.

He said it was "fundamental for a working democracy" that elections were done fairly.

"If corrupted, those elections have no democratic mandate," said Judge Wait.

He said that for a number of years there had been concern over the low turn-out at elections so it had been deliberately made easy for people to vote. But, he said, this ease made corruption a possibility and so courts had the responsibility to punish those who abused the process.

Judge Wait said: "It's apparent to me that not one of you in the dock was the initiator in this electoral fraud, but each played a part to carry it out and, in one case, cover it up."

Following the court hearing, investigating officer Detective Constable Richard Foster, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: "This is an incredibly serious crime that strikes at the heart of our democratic process.

"These women worked together to try to influence the election in that ward. Akhtar's offence is all the more serious because she was in a position of authority and trust as a polling clerk."