Doughty Street fails to overturn Woolas election court decision

The High Court has thrown out an attempt by former Labour MP Phil Woolas to overturn  an election court’s decision that stripped him of his seat in the House of Commons.

Doughty Street’s Gavin Millar QC was instructed by Steel & Shamash named partner Gerald Shamash to act for Woolas.

K&L Gates partners Piers Coleman and Jane Harte-Lovelace instructed Matrix Chambers’ Helen Mountfield QC to challenge the outcome of the May general election for Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins.

Campaign material distributed by Woolas’s team alluded to links between Watkins and extremist violence.

Lord Justice Thomas, who led a panel of three including Mr Justice Tugendhat and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, rejected claims that Woolas had only made legitimate criticisms of his rival’s political position. In his ruling,  Thomas LJ said Woolas’s comments were “not of a trivial nature; they were a serious personal attack on [Mr Watkins] by saying he condoned violence by extremists and refused to condemn those who advocated violence”.

Last month, Woolas was ordered to vacate his constituency seat in Oldham East & Saddleworth (OES) after he was found to have breached election laws.

The decision will prompt a by-election in the constituency.

It is the first time in 99 years that a specially convened election court has overturned the outcome of a parliamentary poll.