Election blunder leads to High Court victory for local firm

By Nick Batten on 25 September, 2019

Francis George Solicitor-Advocate’s latest legal battle has ended in victory in the High Court following a local election counting error.

Highworth, in Wiltshire, has less than 7,000 registered voters but it appeared that more than 40,000 ballots were counted after the town council election in May 2019.

This mistake led to conservative MP, Pauline Webster, being wrongly elected.

Francis George, Senior Partner at Francis George Solicitor-Advocate, said, “The firm was instructed following an error at an election on 2nd May 2019. As a result, it transpired that a candidate was elected in error whereas another candidate who should have been elected was not.”

The firm had to act quickly given the deadline to file a petition was within 21 days from the date of the election. Francis George Solicitor-Advocate was selected by the Petitioner as a direct result of its Higher Rights of Audience accreditation. The firm therefore conducted the matter from start to finish without the need to instruct counsel.

Francis explained, “We made the necessary applications on time which involved filing the petition, the application to fix the amount of security for costs and for the receipt of the payment. At each stage, we were required to serve all 21 Respondents.

“In an effort to resolve the matter quickly, an agreed application was made to the County Court for a recount to take place. It was at that hearing that the true results were revealed by the District Judge. However, the County Court does not have the jurisdiction to rectify the situation. That power is reserved to the High Court.”

Francis attended the hearing on 6th September 2019 at the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.

Having liaised with both the solicitor and counsel for the returning officer, he appeared before the Honourable Mr Justice Knowles and the Honourable Mr Justice Superstone. Francis presented the agreed Special Case pursuant to section 146(3) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which was approved and included an Order for costs.

Francis George is a higher rights qualified solicitor-advocate dealing with all aspects of litigation from multi track trials to small claims matters, conveyancing and every area of family law from its offices in Witney and Swindon.

Pictured above: Francis George Senior Partner at Francis George Solicitor-Advocate