No criminal charges for Conservative candidates over 2015 battle bus spending
The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed no further action will be taken over 2015 election spending
Conservative battle bus - Image credit: Nic Gould via Flickr
No Conservative candidates will face charges relating to expenditure during the 2015 general election, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.
The CPS was handed files by 14 police forces which had investigated the allegations, but has today decided no further action will be taken.
The news will come as a relief for Theresa May and CCHQ, since a decision to bring charges would have left the party with just over 24 hours before the registration deadline to decide whether or not to stand new candidates.
The claims being investigated related to the 2015 ‘battle bus’, the cost of which was recorded as national expenditure rather than counting towards the spending of candidates of the constituencies visited.
The one exception is the accounting of expenses in South Thanet, where UKIP leader Nigel Farage unsuccessfully attempted to get elected, which remains under consideration by the CPS.
A statement from CPS head of special crime Nick Vamos said there was “insufficient evidence” that any candidate had deliberately “acted dishonestly”.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
In March, the Electoral Commission fined the Tories a record £70,000 for mistakes in its 2015 returns – and referred former treasurer Simon Day to the police after it concluded he had breached the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.
The Conservatives said that local agents and candidates had been informed by the party’s headquarters not to list the cost of the bus.
But the Electoral Commission – the watchdog for the election process – said in its report that it was “apparent that candidate campaigning did take place during the Battlebus2015 campaign”.
“The commission is satisfied that a proportion of the reported spending was candidate campaign spending and should not have been included in the party’s return,” its report said.
“That proportion was also, as a result of this, not included in any relevant candidate’s campaign expenses return, casting doubt on the accuracy of those returns.”
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