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Labour councillor wins damages against former Tory member over allegations

Dr Shabina Qayyum, a GP and Labour city councillor in Peterborough, has won substantial damages and a published retraction and apology for allegations made by former PCC cabinet member for finance, David Seaton. 
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Peterborough GP and Labour councillor, Dr Shabina Asad Qayyum has won substantial damages and an apology from former PCC's finance cabinet member over 'fraud' claims (picture: Dr. Shabina Asad Qayyum)

The claim relates to social media posts from last September in which the then-Peterborough city councillor made a number of defamatory statements about Dr Qayyum, alleging her of ‘electoral fraud’.  

She instructed Zillur Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors and Mark Henderson of Doughty Street Chambers to bring her successful libel claim against Mr Seaton for statements on both the “Peterborough Politics Official” Facebook page and his own Facebook page.  

Mr Seaton had posted a number of claims against Cllr Dr Qayyum, also alleging voter intimidation and that she sought to shut down legitimate enquiries by threatening unfounded complaints to the police. He stated that they were “Not my words, copied and pasted from elsewhere”. 

In his statement today (August 30) on both Facebook pages he accepts that each one of these allegations are “false and unfounded”and apologised for the distress caused to her, and confirmed that he is paying her undisclosed damages and legal costs. 

His post said:“On September 10 2020 I posted on my Facebook page, as well as on the Peterborough Politics Official page a post which suggested that Cllr Dr Shabina Qayyum committed electoral fraud and voter intimidation, including attempting to steal the ballots of vulnerable (elderly/disabled) voters; that associated with known criminals/fraudsters and that she shuts down legitimate enquiry by threatening unfounded reporting to the police.

"I accept that these allegations are false and unfounded. I apologise to Cllr Dr Qayyum for these errors and for the distress caused, and I have agreed to pay her damages and legal costs” 

Cllr Qayyum, a member of the Muslim Doctors Association UK and the British Islamic Medical Association, said she suffered severe distress from the claims, which were lifted from a right-wing blog site. She said that as a result she was abused as a “vote rigger” and received abuse. An individual who wrote a racist hate email to Dr Qayyum has been charged with the offence of malicious communications. 

She said: "Mr Seaton used his position as a Conservative cabinet member to propagate entirely false allegations about me to undermine the democratic process. I am delighted that he has been held fully to account, and I hope it is a lesson to politicians who believe that they can smear opponents for political gain. I will be donating the damages received to charity. I would like to thank "my legal team for their skill and determination in achieving this vindication."

As well as thanking a number of bodies that had supported her, Cllr Dr Qayyum added that she had previously received abuse elsewhere as a female in politics,  which was one of the reasons she had tabled a motion regarding abuse of women in politics last year.

Zillur Rahman, of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, added in a statement: “Mr Seaton may have believed that his spreading of defamatory statements were permitted because he stated that he was merely copying and pasting from elsewhere.

"A matter which is otherwise defamatory will not be the less actionable merely because it is rumour, hearsay, or supposition. Prefacing words such as “not my words” does not undo the defamation”.