The candidates for an imminent by-election have been announced, following the recent resignation of disgraced Batley East councillor, Fazila Loonat, who was sent to prison for perverting the course of justice.
Despite previously being a safe Labour seat, May’s Local Elections saw the Batley East ward prove itself to now be a highly competitive battleground, with multiple recounts needed before Labour was announced as the winner by just 14 votes.
Though the Conservative candidate came a very close second, he has been confirmed to not be standing this time, with a new candidate, Beverley Smith, being nominated by the Conservative Party.
The by-election was sparked following the resignation and imprisonment of the ward’s Labour Councillor.
Batley East Labour Councillor Fazila Loonat’s partner Afshin Amini was caught by a speed camera driving her Mercedes car at 39mph on Huddersfield Road, Dewsbury in July 2020.
The road had a 30mph limit, but when Loonat received a notice of intended prosecution at their home in Church Walk, Staincliffe, the paperwork was returned to the authorities naming a “fictitious” driver with a bogus date of birth who was said to live at an address in Dewsbury.
The incident mimics a similar case involving a Labour politician, with disgraced Peterborough Labour MP Fiona Onasanya being sent behind bars in 2019 after being caught lying that a Russian had been driving her car at the time that she was caught breaking the speed limit. Onasanya became the first MP to wear an electronic tag in Parliament, and was subsequently given the boot by her constituents via a recall petition.
Bradford Crown Court heard that police checks failed to find any trace of the alleged driver named by Cllr Loonat, and when the address was checked it was found to be shop premises owned by his partner.
Prosecutor Nadim Bashir said a further “warning letter” was sent to Loonat asking her to reconsider her nomination, but she again filled in and signed the form with the same bogus details.
Mr Bashir said a formal investigation was launched by the police into the allegation of perverting the course of justice and he submitted that the couple were involved in a carefully planned and determined attempt to avoid the speeding fine and penalty points.
The court heard that following the speeding incident Loonat posted an advert on eBay offering the Mercedes for sale, but the prosecution alleged that that was done to support the claim that the car had been taken out on “test drive” when it triggered the speed camera.
Remarkably, police officers gave the couple yet another opportunity to tell the truth and change the name of the driver on the forms – yet the pair chose to stand by their fictitious story.
Loonat eventually pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and today was jailed for 14 weeks, with her partner Amini sentenced to 12 weeks.
The nominated candidates who will be battling to replace her in Batley are as follows:
- Labour: Ebrahim Dockrat
- Green Party: Simon Duffy
- Yorkshire Party: Bikatshi Katenga
- Liberal Democrats: Stephen Long
- Conservatives: Beverley Smith
- Social Democratic Party: Mark Steele
The By-election will take place on Thursday, August 31st.