Criminal charges against more than 30 people, including a raft of Conservative MPs and their agents, are being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service over election expenses at the last general election, Channel 4 News can reveal.
It is not possible to say how many are MPs and how many are agents but it is understood to be a large number and it is believed that the possible prosecutions will be of MPs and election agents.
The news comes as Prime Minister Theresa May today called a snap general election.
Channel 4 News has revealed evidence over the last year that Conservative candidates did not properly declare their election expenses in the last General Election.
This led to police investigations – so far we understand 15 police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The CPS has told Channel 4 News that the snap General Election announcement has no impact on them whatsoever – and that their only concern is to consider the evidence and decide whether charges should be brought.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has also passed a single file to the CPS.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Channel 4 News the prospect of a series of byelections was not the reason the election was called.
“This election has been called for all the reasons the Prime Minister has set out which is that it is in our national interest to have a strong government with a strong majority able to go in and have that negotiation with the EU and beyond.”
Asked by Channel 4 News whether MPs charged in connection with these cases should step aside, she said: “We’re not trying to get in the way at all of the proper due process of law, that must go ahead, but we believe that the Conservatives and the MPs in question and the agents have behaved properly.
“If there are any conclusions to the contrary, we will pay the fines, whatever is appropriate.
“But at the moment, what we’ve been focusing on today, is that we want to have this general election and we’re making the case for it.
“The impact on the prosecutions, whether they make them or not from the CPS, is not impacted by this”, she told Channel 4 News.
The Conservatives have a working majority of 17 MPs.
The CPS decision must be made by the end of May, or early June.
Charges could be brought against MPs right in the middle of the general election campaign.
The former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said on his LBC radio show, regarding the role of the election expenses allegations on the decision to call an election: “I think the Tories were terrified of something breaking over the course of the next few months, byelections to be held in September, certainly a dozen seats in which there was the possibility of a byelection some say even 20. And that for a government with a working majority of 12.
“And I have to pay credit to somebody on this … his name is [Channel 4 News political correspondent] Michael Crick.”