Official complaint after disabled grandma blocked from voting in Hampstead and Kilburn
PUBLISHED: 16:08 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:32 14 June 2017
The grandson of an amputee who could not enter her polling station because it did not have disabled access believes the council breached electoral regulations and equality laws.
Josephine Maxwell, who is wheelchair-bound, tried and failed to vote twice at the Oxford Kilburn (OK) club in Denmark Road, as it was not accessible.
The front entrance to the club – which has ramps and full disabled access – was closed.
When Josephine tried to vote at 8.50am on Thursday morning, she was left outside in the rain.
One of the officials said that they would get someone to help her enter – but they never returned and Josephine left.
When Josephine returned with her daughter, officials tried to bring out a two pieces of metal for the side entrance for Josephine to wheel onto, but it was not big enough.
They then asked if Josephine wanted to vote outside with a ballot paper, but she declined, as it was not a private polling booth.
Josephine’s grandson, Richard Briffa, has written a formal letter of complaint to Brent Council.
He wrote: “This is disgraceful behaviour displayed towards a disabled 79 year old woman and is also a breach of electoral regulations as well as her rights under the equality act.
“We are appalled at the attitude of the presiding officer and his complete lack of empathy as well as observance of electoral regulations.
“I would appreciate a swift response and investigation into this matter as you have denied at least one disabled person from their right to vote.
“On the 100th anniversary of Women being allowed to vote, the incompetence of your staff meant that one was unable to.”
Josephine, who lives in Queen’s Park, told the Ham&High: “I’m really disgusted.
“I don’t think they (Brent Council) should be able to get away with that.
“I’m not the only person in a wheelchair who must not have been able to vote.
“I really am upset. It’s my basic right. I should be allowed to vote.”
She added: “I feel degraded.”
After being contacted by our paper, Brent Council was only able to confirm the station was accessible around 3pm on election day.
This means other disabled voters could have been turned away.
Responding to the complaint, a Brent Council spokeswoman said: “We regret that that Ms. Maxwell experienced difficulty when she initially went to vote last Thursday. Our Presiding Officer followed the Electoral Commission guidance that if a voter is unable to gain access to a polling station, their ballot paper is brought to them. The issue of access to the Polling Station was later resolved, and we made every effort to contact Ms Maxwell to encourage her to return.
“We are currently responding to the complaint from Ms Maxwell’s family.”