Prosecutors still reviewing one Tory election fraud file
Conservative MPs will not be charged with election fraud, although one case remains under review, senior prosecutors revealed in an unusually long statement yesterday.
It had been alleged that the Conservative Party had incorrectly recorded some expenses incurred in the 2015 general election campaign, raising the potential for offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Busloads of Tory activists had been dispatched to key seats, but the activity was recorded under national campaign spending rather than constituency spending, which has a lower limit. Files had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by 14 police forces.
With the country preparing to head to the polls again, Nick Vamos, head of the CPS’s special crime unit, produced a detailed justification of the decision. “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,” he said. “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.”
Vamos said the CPS’s decision was consistent with that of the Electoral Commission, which fined the party £70,000 over the misreported spending. He said: “While the role of the commission is to regulate political finances and campaign spending, the role of the CPS is to consider whether any individual should face criminal charges, which is a different matter with different consideration and tests.”
However, a file relating to Craig Mackinlay, who is campaigning to retain his Thanet South seat, is still under consideration. It was submitted to the CPS by Kent Police later than the other files. Mackinlay denies any wrongdoing. Vamos emphasised that “no inference as to whether any criminal charge may or may not be authorised in relation to this file should be drawn from this fact and we will announce our decision as soon as possible once we have considered the evidence in this matter”.