Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Breach of official duty and power to correct procedural errors

As (A)RO you are subject to breach of official duty provisions. This means that if you or your appointed deputies are, without reasonable cause, guilty of any act or omission in breach of official duty you (and/or they) are liable on summary conviction to an unlimited fine in England and Wales or, in Scotland, a fine not exceeding £5,000.1  

You have the power to take such steps as you think appropriate to remedy acts or omissions that arise in connection with any function of the elections and that are not in accordance with the rules.2  

This power allows you to correct procedural errors that are made by you, as (A)RO, an ERO, a Presiding Officer (or any deputies of any of these), or a person providing goods or services to you/them.3  

A procedural error refers to an error someone has made during the process of planning or delivering the election, which may affect the election process or result. For example, incorrect information being produced on poll cards or ballot papers, or postal or polling station ballot papers being issued in error or not issued when they should have been. The above examples are not exhaustive and you should contact your local Commission team for support and advice if you have think you may have made a mistake that could be corrected using this power.

Where you remedy an act or omission in full by using your power to correct a procedural error, you will not be guilty of an offence of breach of official duty.4  You should remember that the power to correct procedural errors does not enable you to recount the votes once the result has been declared.5

Last updated: 19 December 2023