LONDON — A swathe of Conservative MPs have been told they have “no case to answer” following an inquiry into their election expenses from 2015.
The Tories had feared that dozens of their MPs could have their victories ruled null and void following investigations into alleged overspending in a series of seats around the country.
Theresa May was accused by some opponents of calling the snap election in expectation of upcoming charges.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service today wrote to a number of Conservative MPs under investigation to inform them that no charges would be levelled against them.
The CPS found that while there was evidence to suggest that some election spending returns had been inaccurate, there was “insufficient evidence” to suggest that there had been intentional and therefore criminal dishonesty.
However, investigations will continue in Thanet, where the Conservatives narrowly beat UKIP’s Nigel Farage. The CPS said they had only received information about the seat recently and it would “remain under consideration.”
Nick Vamos, CPS Head of Special Crime, said in a statement:
“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.
“Our evaluation of the evidence is consistent with that of the Electoral Commission. 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.
“One file, from Kent Police, was only recently received by the CPS, and remains under consideration. 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.”
This is a developing news story…
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