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Candidate conduct

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Candidate conduct

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The Representation of the People Act 1983 (RPA) prohibits election candidates from engaging in certain activities which are mainly categorised as either ‘corrupt practices’ or ‘illegal practices’.

Individuals responsible for corrupt or illegal practices can be prosecuted in the criminal courts, and sentenced to a fine, or imprisonment, or both. Such practices also operate as grounds for invalidating an election pursuant to an election petition, and their commission disqualifies a person from standing for election for three years (for illegal practices) or five years (for corrupt practices).

There are also other offences, in the RPA 1983, which do not fall into either category and which specify their own penalties. These include offences such as tampering with nomination papers, ballot papers etc. contrary to Section 65 of the RPA.

Corrupt practices

The primary examples of such practices are:

Electoral bribery involves the giving or receiving of money or employment offered or received with the intention of inducing a change in voting behaviour or the return of a candidate.

Treating involves corruptly giving or providing meat, drink or “provision” to others with the intention of influencing voting behaviour.

Undue influence involves:

  • the use of any force, violence or restraint, or infliction of temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm or loss on any person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of that person having voted or refrained from voting;
  • impeding or preventing, by abduction, duress or any fraudulent device or contrivance, the free exercise of the franchise by voters, or compelling, inducing or prevailing upon voters either to vote or to refrain from voting.

Personation involves an individual impersonating another voter in order to cast a vote to which they are not entitled.

Postal vote fraud involves interfering with ballots cast by post.

Illegal practices

Some illegal practices are only classed as such if committed by the candidate or his election agent).

Examples of illegal practices:

  • Voting when not entitled to do so
  • Tampering with ballot papers
  • Voting more than once in an election
  • Making false statements about the personal character or conduct of an election candidate
  • Payment of election canvassers (who are required by law to be volunteers)

If you or someone you know has contested, or is contesting, an election in which someone may have broken the law in relation to candidate conduct, please get in touch with our Parliamentary and Election Law team of specialists with decades of experiencing in representing candidates, agents and others in relation to allegations of breaching electoral law. Call 020 7803 3999 and ask for Gerald Shamash, Kevin Bonavia or Axel Landin.

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