Our former Labour MP, Phil Woolas, isn’t going to face prosecution over the lies he told in election leaflets. Prosecutors today announced that a criminal case wouldn’t be in the public interest, because Mr Woolas had already been punished enough.
Mr Woolas was stripped of his victory in last May’s general election, and banned for standing for public office for three years, for making untrue statements about his Liberal Democrat rival Elwyn Watkins.
A specially-convened election court imposed that penalty following a hearing in Uppermill last year, which took place after Mr Watkins brought a legal challenge.
The reviewing lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, Simon Orme, today said in a statement: “When deciding to prosecute, we must consider whether a sufficient civil penalty has already been imposed on the suspect.”
He continued: “In the circumstances, I have concluded that the serious nature of the allegations has been adequately addressed and it is unlikely that a criminal court would impose any significant further penalty. On that basis, a prosecution is not needed in the public interest.”
The former Immigration Minister was found to have broken the law by falsely claiming in his election literature that Mr Watkins had tried to woo so-called “Muslim extremists” during what was a bitterly-fought general election campaign. Mr Woolas, who had been our MP since 1997, eventually clung on to the seat by just 103 votes.
However, the verdict of the two High Court judges who presided over the case meant that result was declared void. It was the first time in 99 years that an MP had lost his seat because of this sort of criminal wrongdoing.
Mr Woolas, who was also thrown out of the Labour Party, later criticised the law in question for being “out of date” and said he didn’t regret anything which had been said in his election leaflets.
A by-election was held in January, and Labour’s Debbie Abrahams defeated Mr Watkins to become our new MP.
When contacted by Saddleworth News Mr Watkins, who lives in Delph, said he didn’t have anything to add following today’s announcement.
The full statement from the CPS can be read here.
You can read a Saddleworth News report from the day the election court returned its verdict here.