No charges to be pressed against Tories in election fraud cases

10/05/2017
Nathanael Williams

Tory MPs will not face charges for dubious battle bus expenses

THE TORY PARTY will face no charges in relation to investigations into claims it conducted electoral fraud during the General Election of 2015.

Up to 30 Tory MPs, many in marginal seats, were being probed by police over election expenses and the infamous conservative ‘battle bus’, used to take activists between crucial swing seats in England and Wales in 2015. All but one of the 30 investigations into Tory election spending in 2015 have been dropped without charges.

The probe officially focused on the Tories use of an election battle bus to campaign in key seats and spending on hotels and campaign material. The Electoral Commission and police were investigating whether it should have been classed as local party spending. 

The CPS case was seen by some political opponents such as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as the real reason why Theresa May called a General Election for 8 June.

The criminal prosecution service today (Wednesday 10 May) confirmed that the police would not pursue criminal investigations into any of the 30 Tory MPs. However, it confirmed a single investigation has remained open in Kent.

“It is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly.” Nick Vamos

Nick Vamos, CPS head of the special crime unit, said: “We have considered files of evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates’ expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign.

“We considered whether candidates and election agents working in constituencies that were visited by the party’s ‘battle bus’ may have committed a criminal offence by not declaring related expenditure on their local returns. Instead, as the Electoral Commission found in its report, these costs were recorded as national expenditure by the party.

“We reviewed the files in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors and have concluded the tests in the code are not met and no criminal charges have been authorised.

“Under the Representation of the People Act, every candidate and agent must sign a declaration on the expenses return that to the best of their knowledge and belief it is a complete and correct return as required by law. It is an offence to knowingly make a false declaration. In order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration. Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest.

“The Act also makes it a technical offence for an election agent to fail to deliver a true return. By omitting any ‘battle bus’ costs, the returns may have been inaccurate. However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly. Therefore we have concluded it is not in the public interest to charge anyone referred to us with this offence.”

Fifteen police forces were involved in the investigation.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, who defeated former Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Thanet South, Kent, is the one remaining MP connected to an open investigation.

Picture courtesy of YouTube

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