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Election Court holds that s 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 applies equally to candidates talking about themselves as any other

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Election Court holds that s 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 applies equally to candidates talking about themselves as any other


01 October 2015

Timothy Morrison & Others v Alistair Carmichael MP & Another [2015] ECIH 71

The election court, sitting in Scotland for the first time in 50 years, has found at the conclusion of a preliminary trial that the legislative provision which makes it an “illegal practice” to make or publish a false statement about a candidate during an election campaign (section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983) applies equally to candidates talking about themselves as it does to any other candidate. The court, comprising Lady Paton and Lord Matthews, have said that they wish to hear evidence in relation to two remaining issues (whether the statement relates to personal character and conduct, and whether it was for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election) before giving a final determination and reporting to the House of Commons.

The petition has been brought by four constituents of Orkney and Shetland in respect of the election of Alistair Carmichael as their Member of Parliament for Westminster, against the background of Mr Carmichael’s involvement in the leak of a memo regarding the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. The preliminary trial made legal history by being the first court proceedings to be broadcast live and in full, after the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) reached an agreement with STV for the hearing to be streamed live on the internet and broadcast on two regional STV channels. Journalists were also permitted by SCTS to ‘tweet’ live from the courtroom during the hearing, which received widespread media coverage.

The case will now be heard By Order on 12 October to discuss the next part of the trial.

The full opinion of the court can be accessed here: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/judgment?id=eb9eeea6-8980-69d2-b500-ff0000d74aa7. In what is understood to be another legal first, the Notes of Argument for both parties were disseminated to the media in the course of the hearing, and are linked to in the judgment itself.

Axiom counsel are involved on both sides of the argument, with Lesley Irvine appearing as junior counsel for the petitioners, and Roddy Dunlop QC as senior counsel for Mr Carmichael."