FST challenge destined to fail?

The last time a Unionist attempted to have a court overturn an electoral declaration in Fermanagh South Tyrone was when James Cooper (UUP) failed in his challenge over the 2001 result where he was defeated by 53 votes.

At the time Justice Carswell agreed there had been irregularities at a polling station in Garrison but rejected the appeal:

That said, the issue which we as an election court have to decide is whether the election in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections.  The disturbance at St Martin’s School, Garrison was serious and intolerable, but it was an isolated incident and fortunately had a small effect on the voting both in that polling station and in the constituency as a whole.  We must conclude that the condition laid down in section 23(3)(a) of the 1983 Act is satisfied and that we should not declare the election for this constituency invalid.

The relevant section of the  Representation of the People Act states:

3) No parliamentary election shall be declared invalid by reason of any act or omission by the returning officer or any other person in breach of his official duty in connection with the election or otherwise of the parliamentary elections rules if it appears to the tribunal having cognizance of the question that—

(a)the election was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections; and

(b)the act or omission did not affect its result.

So Rodney Connor will not only need to prove an irregularity but it was substantial enough to affect the result. Don’t fancy his chances much when he is arguing over circa 30 votes with no evidence of where they went.

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