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Crimestoppers to help fight election fraud

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The Electoral Commission has launched a joint campaign with the Crimestoppers website, in the wake of concerns Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are vulnerable to electoral fraud.

The commission is urging people to report suspected intimidation, bribery, personation, and other offences via the Crimestoppers hotline, which allows callers to report concerns anonymously.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: “[The campaign] follows some research we did among the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, which appear vulnerable to electoral fraud because of political parties not campaigning directly to individuals but looking to community leaders to ensure votes were cast for particular parties.

“We wanted to say that laws on electoral fraud apply to everyone and those that are worried about their names being known for making allegations in a close knit community can do so anonymously.”

In January the commission published research reports by the National Centre for Social Research and by academics from Manchester and Liverpool universities that examined electoral fraud.

The commission said the findings raised concerns as to whether residents of areas predominantly populated by British Pakistani or British Bangladeshi communities “were able effectively to exercise their right to vote and participate in elections on the same basis as other voters in the UK”.

The research found that strong community networks “provide valuable support to people, but they may also be vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous campaigners” and low levels of public awareness about what is acceptable campaigning activity and what is electoral fraud.

The campaign follows last month’s High Court ruling that former Tower Hamlets LBC mayor Lutfur Rahman was guilty of undue spiritual influence in relation to his election in May 2014. Judge Richard Mawrey found that Muslim clerics in the borough had persuaded Muslim voters that it was their “religious duty” to vote for him.

April also saw five individuals of Pakistani origin found guilty of conspiracy to defraud over events in Woking BC elections in May 2012.

Shaukat Ali, Parveen Akhtar, Sobia Ali Akhtar, Shamraiz Ali and Abid Hussain, all of Woodham Lane, New Haw, were convicted at Reading Crown Court following an investigation by Surrey Police.

Mohammed Bashir (Lib Dem) won by 16 votes, but this was successfully challenged in the High Count by Labour candidate, Mohammad Ali and a further election was ordered.

The convicted quintet, all relatives of Mr Bashir, were charged with conspiracy to defraud Woking’s returning officer.

To report suspected fraud in any community call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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