East Lancashire voting fraud inquiry sent to CPS

First published in East Lancashire Chorley Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Local government reporter

POLICE investigating an alleged vote fraud in East Lancashire have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide on possible court action.

Lancashire police have referred the file on ‘proxy voting’, in Accrington’s Barnfield ward, after complaints were made following local council elections in May.

Similar investigations into two other wards in Hyndburn, and two in Blackburn with Darwen, concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

The allegations in the two boroughs were among several made across East Lancashire after the bitterly-fought polls in May.

Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson made claims of family voting in the South Asian community in his borough, giving evidence to the Electoral Commission’s review of the elections.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw told them of his concerns about postal and proxy voting.

Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle also raised concerns about voting abuse in his constituency.

Complaints about malpractice in Barnfield, Springhill and Central wards, Accrington, and Bastwell ward, Blackburn, and Sunnyhurst ward, Darwen, led to a series of Lancashire police investigations. Now all have been dropped, bar the probe into Barnfield.

A Lancashire Police statement said: “An investigation into alleged malpractice in the use of proxy votes in two wards in Hyndburn has found no evidence of any malpractice. Another investigation into alleged electoral malpractice in the use of proxy votes in a third ward in Hyndburn is continuing.

“A similar investigation into alleged proxy voting malpractice was carried out in two wards in Blackburn with Darwen. Again no evidence was found of any malpractice. An investigation was also carried out in one of these wards in relation to the use of postal votes. Again no criminal evidence of malpractice was identified.”

Mr Straw said: “There are aspects of proxy and postal vot-ing that may need to be changed to reduce the possibility of malpractice.”

Hyndburn Council leader Miles Parkinson said: “The police have made very thorough investig-ations and we await the further results of that due process.”

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