Imran Ahmad Khan: What could happen to MP after his conviction?

The Wakefield MP’s legal team has vowed to appeal against the conviction, a move that could delay a potential by-election.

11 April 2022

Convicted MP Imran Ahmad Khan has been thrown out of the Conservative Party after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

The Wakefield MP’s legal team has vowed to appeal against the conviction, a move that could delay a potential by-election.

Here is what could happen following the conviction.

– What happens now?

If Khan is imprisoned for more than a year he is automatically disqualified from being an MP and there will be a by-election to replace him.

Imran Ahmad Khan court case
Imran Ahmad Khan’s legal team is to appeal against the conviction (James Manning/PA)

In the event of a sentence of less than a year he would be allowed to continue as an MP and appeal.

If he is unsuccessful in appealing he would be subject to a recall petition.

Khan could also choose to stand down from his position.

– What is a recall?

According to the House of Commons Library, recall is a process whereby voters can trigger a special election to remove their MP outside of the scheduled election dates.

Recall systems generally involve two stages.

Firstly, a petition will be launched calling for an elected representative to be recalled.

If this is supported by enough people it then leads to the person being removed from office and a new election being held.

Most cases of recall are triggered by wrongdoing by an elected individual or perceived unsuitability for office.

– Which law covers recall?

In the UK, the Recall of MPs Act 2015, which came into force in March 2016, allows for an MP to lose their seat and a by-election to be held if a local petition to recall them is successful.

– How is recall triggered?

Fiona Onasanya recall petition
Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was removed by recall petition in 2019 (Joe Giddens/PA)

Recall only applies to MPs and a petition can only be started if any one of three conditions is met:

– An MP is convicted of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of a year or less.

– An MP is suspended from the Commons for at least 10 sitting days, or 14 calendar days.

– An MP is convicted of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

The first and third conditions are only met once any legal appeals are dealt with by the courts.

Members of the public cannot initiate a petition.

– What happens if there is a general election?

A recall petition cannot be launched if a general election is due within the next six months.

If an early general election is called then any recall petition process will be halted.

A recall petition will also be halted if an MP vacates their seat.

– How does the recall petition process work?

If one of the required conditions is met, the Speaker of the House of Commons gives notice to the petitions officer in the MP’s constituency.

The latter will be the returning officer.

The petitions officer will decide where and when a petition can be signed, with a maximum of 10 locations chosen for in person signing in the constituency.

Imran Ahmad Khan court case
Khan is MP for Wakefield (UK Parliament)

The officer should designate the 10th working day after receiving the Speaker’s notice as the day the petition opens, unless this is not practicable.

A petition stays open for six weeks from the day it is opened. It would be fully funded by the Government.

Signing places must be open Monday to Friday, for a minimum of 9am to 5pm.

– Who can sign a petition?

Anyone in the MP’s constituency registered to vote in parliamentary elections on the day the Speaker’s notice is received by the petitions officer can sign the petition.

If there are multiple signing places, voters will be assigned a location similar to a polling station.

Constituents will place signed sheets in a sealed ballot box, or can apply to sign by post or via a proxy.

– What needs to happen for a petition to succeed?

A petition requires 10% of the constituency’s voters to support it to succeed.

The result would be sent to the Speaker, the MP’s seat would become vacant and a by-election held.

The recalled MP is permitted to take part in the by-election.

– Has a recall petition been used before?

Ian Paisley Jnr
Ian Paisley Jnr (Paul Faith/PA)

In July 2018, a recall petition was triggered when Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley Jnr was suspended from the Commons for 30 days after his failure to register two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

A recall petition in his North Antrim constituency failed after it was backed by only 9.4% of the electorate.

Another recall petition was triggered in March 2019 after Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was sentenced to three months in prison on conviction for perverting the course of justice in December 2018.

The recall was successful, with more than 25% of registered voters signing the petition, and Onasanya did not contest the subsequent by-election.

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