A judge has withdrawn a threat to "name and shame" political activists for corrupt and illegal conduct at Birmingham City Council elections because the procedure could contravene the Human Rights Act.
Richard Mawrey QC said he had increasing doubts about adopting rarely used powers under the Representation of the People Act, which might have led to 19 Labour Party members and activists from Bordesley Green being banned from voting in elections or standing as candidates for five years.
Mr Mawrey said the accused would not be entitled to legal aid and therefore would be unable to be represented by counsel or obtain expert evidence to refute allegations that they were involved in ballot rigging.
This would be unfair and in breach of Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.
An elections court in Birmingham heard that the 19 accused would each have to pay up to #3,000 to hire the services of a handwriting expert in order to refute claims that they forged postal vote declarations of identity.
Six barristers were at the court yesterday, having agreed to represent the 19 accused free of charge for a limited period. They made it clear the pro bono arrangement was unlikely to continue.
Mr Mawrey accepted submissions from counsel and agreed to drop the naming and shaming threat, after describing counsel's intervention as being "in the best traditions of the English bar".
The procedure Mr Mawrey had intended to follow has not been implemented for more than 100 years and he said it was clear those who drafted the legislation could not have imagined the scale of alleged fraud in Birmingham.
The court has spent three weeks examining allegations that thousands of postal votes were forged to favour Labour in Bordesley Green and Aston during last year's city council elections.