CPS statement – no charges, one file remains under consideration

Here is the long-awaited CPS statement on the election expenses matter. Can we also just remind you of our earlier post about comments. In summary, say nothing because you may fall foul of a plethora of defamation or contempt or electoral laws.

The statement reads

“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.”

A Lib Dem spokesperson said:

This General Election must be about policies and ideas, not about which party has the most money.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can challenge Theresa May. We will be the strong opposition that will stand up for a Britain which is open, tolerant and united.

The CPS statement refers to the likelihood of successful criminal prosecution. However, we should not forget that the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party £70,000, the largest fine it had ever handed out, after its investigation concluded:

  • there was no evidence that the Party’s spending return for the 2014 European Parliamentary election was incomplete;
    it is likely that expense returns delivered by Party candidates at three Parliamentary by-elections during 2014 understated the value of the Party’s spending on their campaigns;
  • on three instances in 2014, relating to the said three Parliamentary by-elections, Mr Day as registered treasurer failed to ensure that the Party’s accounting records were sufficient to adequately show and explain the Party’s transactions with the candidates and/or their agents, as required by section 41 of PPERA;
  • the Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election spending return was not a complete statement of its campaign spending payments, as required by section 80(3) of PPERA. Mr Day had included payments that were not Party campaign spending and omitted other Party campaign payments; and
  • the Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election spending return also failed to include all the required invoices and receipts associated with the Party’s campaign spending that were required by section 80(3) of PPERA. The Commission has also referred one matter relating to section 83(3) of PPERA to the Metropolitan Police Service. Section 83(3) required the Party’s treasurer to declare that he has examined the return and that to the best of his knowledge and belief, the return was complete and correct as required by law. A declaration to that effect was delivered alongside its spending return. The investigation established that the Party’s general election return was neither complete nor correct, and the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation has given the Commission reason to suspect that an offence may have been committed. Knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration under this section of the Act is a criminal offence and falls outside the remit of the Commission’s civil sanctioning powers. It will be a matter for the police as to what steps they take following the Commission’s referral.

You may find the full report of the Electoral Commission investigation informative and interesting.

 

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