Conservatives election expenses probe extended
Judge warns general election results could be “declared void” as Tories fail to block extension to election expenses probe in South Thanet
An investigation into improper election spending by the Conservative party has been extended by 12 months.
The party has blamed an “administrative error” for not declaring £38,000 of expenses for a ‘battlebus’ which targeted specific seats including South Thanet, where UKIP leader Nigel Farage was beaten by Tory Craig MacKinlay.
MacKinlay attempted to oppose the extension, but Folkestone Magistrates' Court have granted Kent police “a further 12 months for an investigation”.
District Judge Justin Barron said the inquiry could lead to election results “being declared void”.
“The consequences of a conviction would be of a local and national significance,” he added.
Investigations into electoral spending must take place within a year, but all police forces in England have been granted the extension to probe the claims. South Thanet is the only seat where the party has attempted to oppose the ruling.
A Channel 4 news investigation found evidence the Conservatives may have abused the election rules in up to 33 constituencies, affecting 29 winning MPs. The claims include spending on hotels and social media campaigns.
The party has a majority of 12 in the House of Commons.
It is a criminal offence to fail to declare spending by candidates and their electoral agents during a campaign. It can carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
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