South Thanet Tory faces charges for election spending debacle
THE TORY CANDIDATE in Kent, a party official and his party aide have all been charged by police over election spending and expenses claimed during the 2015 UK General Election campaign.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed today (Friday 2 June) that Craig Mackinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62 have all been charged with election offences and will appear in court on 4 June.
Mackinlay who is running for South Thanet in 2017, a previous target seat for Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage in 2015, has been investigated for alleged overspending, which was part of the wider debacle that saw the Tories fined 70,000 by the Electoral Commission.
The fine is, to this day, the largest ever handed out to a UK political party.
The Tories have blamed an “administrative error” for their failure, declaring £38,000 of expenses for their UK General Election Battlebus tour in 2015.
“We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people.” CPS
The CPS statement reads: “On 18 April we received a file of evidence from Kent Police concerning allegations relating to Conservative Party expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign. We then asked for additional enquiries to be made in advance of the 11 June statutory time limit by when any charges needed to be authorised.
“Those enquiries have now been completed and we have considered the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people.
“Craig Mackinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62, have each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July 2017.
“Criminal proceedings have now commenced and it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
In May, the Crown Prosceution Service announced that in 29 of the original 30 investigations no charges would be brought due to insufficient evidence.
Conservative Leader Theresa May had faced accusations from political opponents like First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that she had only called this year’s General Election to avoid facing difficult questions about the Tories election spending.
Mackinlay defeated Farage in 2015 but found himself caught up in the broader investigation by the Electoral Commission and Kent Police.
Police forces had been investigating if some Tory agents should have filed costs for battle bus visits to constituencies under local expenses.
The Conservative Party said they had been campaigning “across the country for the return of a Conservative government” and, as a result, associated costs were regarded as national and not local expenditure.
“Craig Mackinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62, have each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July 2017.” CPS
In May, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that in 29 of the original 30 investigations no charges would be brought due to insufficient evidence.
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. Mackinlay was the only Tory MP from an initial 30 who was undergoing continued investigation over election spending in the 2015 campaign.
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.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The legal authorities have previously cleared Conservative candidates who faced numerous politically motivated and unfounded complaints over the Party’s national Battlebus campaigning.
“We continue to believe that this remaining allegation is unfounded. Our candidate has made clear that there was no intention by him or his campaigners to engage in any inappropriate activity. We believe that they have done nothing wrong, and we are confident that this will be proven as the matter progresses.
“The individuals remain innocent unless otherwise proven guilty in a court of law.
“There is a broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation, and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law to tackle the real and proven cases of corruption that were exposed in Tower Hamlets in 2015.”
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