Woolas trial report: day one

This report is from the Lib Dem Voice court reporter. You may also like to read Nick Thornsby’s account of the first day of the trial

Helen Mountfield is the lead counsel for Elwyn Watkins with James Laddie QC her able second from Matrix chambers.

Elwyn was in the witness box first. Mountfield’s opening statement was devastating in that it refered to email from Woolas’ campaign team which wrote “we have to make the white folk angry” or as they put it ‘angrey’.

It would seem that all trials now have to refer to the European Human Rights Act. In particular the 1983 Representation of the People Act with section 106 being of particular reference.

In the ECHR articles 3 and 10 refer to the right of free and robust political debate, but also have qualifications over false statements. Mountfield raised the issue of ‘sour grapes’ being the prime motivation of Elwyn Watkins. It was about whether Mr Woolas cheated as a candidate thereby depriving the electorate of their democratic choice.

Gavin Millar QC tried to argue that Watkins had made some sort of commitment that he made a promise to move into the constituency. He had in the sense that he would do so before the General Election. A fine legal argument followed which of course shed little light. Millar also tried to argue that Watkins had promised to solely fund the campaign. Millar asked about Watkins income and whether he had enough to actually fund the campaign alone.

Millar tried to allude to some corrupt practise by Watkins, saying that he was funded by Shak Abdullah and his El Raini Group, but failed to make a case. Watkins wasn’t caught on the subject of his income. One comedy moment came when Elwyn was asked to reconcile the Hadjuri calendar against the Gregorian Calendar by Millar. In classic liberal style Elwyn said he was ‘careful with his cash’.

Millar tried to imply that the entire campaign was paid for by Watkins alone. He went through Watkins’ expenditure over the last 3 years – none of which came anywhere near to the £200,000 alleged by Woolas. Millar tried to imply covert income from Saudi Arabia but failed to connect the dots.

Two Liberal Democrat witnesses were in the witness box for less than 10 minutes and two further were never even called.

Millar tried to ask about a Liberal Democrat Eid leaflet, but was confused about the fact that there were two of them.

Woolas admitted he could not explain why his diary was withheld. He also got into a semantic argument over whether a doctored photograph was actually doctored. For him it was only ‘altered’. He also alleged that Watkins was wooing extremists.

The case continues.

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