Matrix silk convinces court that Woolas breached election laws

Matrix Chambers’ Helen Mountfield QC has successfully challenged the outcome of the May general election for Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins in a ruling that will force Labour MP Phil Woolas from his seat.

Two High Court judges this morning ordered the Labour shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas to vacate his constituency seat in Oldham East & Saddleworth (OES) after he was found to have breached election laws.

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

The ruling given by Mr Justice Teare and Mr Justice Griffith at a specially convened election  court will prompt a by-election in the constituency.

K&L Gates partners Piers Coleman and Jane Harte-Lovelace instructed Mountfield to challenge the narrow outcome of the poll after it emerged that Woolas distributed material that suggested his opponent “wooed” Islamic extremists in the run up to the 6 May poll.

Mountfield told the court that Woolas’s team had devised a strategy to stop the Lib Dem contender from winning the election.

“They set out to attack Mr Watkins personally and say whatever it took to turn the electorate against him,” Mountfield said.

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

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