No criminal charges will be launched against the Tory MPs being investigated as part of a potential election expenses scandal, the Crown Prosecution Service announced today.
But in a statement released today, the CPS said:
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. CPS
A decision on whether to charge Craig MacKinlay, the MP for South Thanet, has not yet been made.
The CPS said:
“One file, from Kent Police, was only recently received by the CPS, and remains under consideration.”
The deadline for that ruling is on Sunday 11 June - three days after the general election.
The CPS did admit of the 15 cases that there was “evidence to suggest the [election spending] returns may have been inaccurate”, but that there was “insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest”.
Tory MP Karl McCartney who was one of those being investigated called for “heads to roll” at the “politically motivated Electoral Commission” after he was cleared.
McCartney said if the Commission’s senior management did not resign, “I, and no doubt my colleagues who have been victims of the Electoral Commission’s witch-hunt, will take every opportunity after the General Election to persuade the newly-elected Government to abolish this incompetent organisation.”
Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin said he was “pleased” by the CPS’ decision and added claims the party had done anything wrong were “politically motivated”.
He said in a statement: “After a very thorough investigation, we are pleased that the legal authorities have confirmed what we believed was the case all along: that these Conservative candidates did nothing wrong.
“These were politically motivated and unfounded complaints that have wasted police time. We are glad that this matter is finally resolved.
“A number of false and malicious claims continue to be spread on the internet. People should be aware that making false claims about a candidate’s personal character and conduct is an electoral offence, as well as being defamatory.
“Notwithstanding these false claims, Conservatives want to strengthen election rules to safeguard electoral integrity — in light of the real and proven cases of electoral fraud exposed in Tower Hamlets in 2015.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by highlighting the importance of keeping money out of the ballot box.
Speaking at a rally in Leeds, he said: “On the question of the CPS…I am interested and surprised by it, but we would have to look at the details of it.
“Quite clearly the Electoral Commission is independent, the Crown Prosecution is independent, the Director of Public Prosecutions is independent, they have to make a judgement on it.
“But our electoral laws must be enforced and must be adhered to, there are strict spending limits for a reason - so that money can’t buy power, only votes in the ballot box should be able to get power.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The CPS have judged no law has been broken but the Conservative Party has driven a battle bus through the spirit of the law.”
The investigation centres on allegations that expenses were incorrectly recorded, raising the potential for offences under the Representation of the People’s Act 1983.
Allegations highlighted by Channel 4 News and the Daily Mirror relate to busloads of Conservative activists sent to key seats, whose expenses were reported as part of national campaign spending rather than falling within the lower constituency limits.
In March the Conservative Party was fined a record £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for “numerous failures” in reporting its expenses for the 2015 General Election, and three by-elections in 2014.
The following month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election before the probe “catches up with her”.