Election expenses: Allegations “on an unprecedented scale”
A judge today gave police more time to look into Conservative election expenses in South Thanet, calling the circumstances “far beyond” typical offences.
Kent Police are considering whether Conservative Craig Mackinlay MP (South Thanet) and his agent exceeded the legal spending limit as he beat Ukip leader Nigel Farage in last year’s general election.
Today District Judge Barron outlined in court the reasons for extending the time period for Kent Police to investigate.
In his summary in court today he said: “In my judgment the combination of circumstances before me is wholly exceptional and goes far beyond the usual circumstances that would exist in a typical case where election offences are being investigated.”
The allegations emerged following a five-month long Channel 4 News investigation into election expenses in South Thanet and across the country.
Kent Police are now the twelfth force to get an order allowing them more time to investigate election expenses regarding last year’s general election.
Judge Barron said the circumstances of his judgment include:”The nature and extent of the enquiry with the involvement of the Electoral Commission and investigations taking place not just in South Thanet but across the country. As Louise Edwards [Head of Regulatory Compliance and Casework at the Electoral Commission] points out this is on an unprecedented scale.”
He said the circumstances also include: “The fundamental relationship between the Party’s national return and the multiple local candidate returns with the national return being submitted to the Commission on the 6th November 2015 and the consequent delay in the start of the investigation.
“Whilst there will almost always be a public interest in investigation of offences under the Act the weight of the public interest will depend on the nature and extent of the allegations being investigated.
“In this case the allegations are far reaching and the consequences of a conviction would be of a local and national significance with the potential for election results being declared void.”