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Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

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Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

Post by Doug D on 29.04.16 11:45

Second chance for CM?
After his humiliation in Brighton last time, will he be looking for a safer option?
Green Party
Caroline Lucas
   22,871 total votes taken.
   41.8% share of the total vote
                       +10.5% change in share of the votes
Purna Sen
14,904 total votes taken.
27.3% share of the total vote
            -1.7% change in share of the votes
Clarence Mitchell
22.8% of the total vote                                        -0.9% change in share of the votes
Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches 
   Conservative Party facing claims it breached strict spending rules last year
   Deliberate breach of spending limits - around £15,000 - is a criminal offence
   Any guilty candidate would be barred from holding office for three years
PUBLISHED: 01:18, 29 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:27, 29 April 2016
Police have been instructed by the election watchdog to be ready to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials.
The Conservative Party is facing damaging claims that it breached strict spending rules in a string of key marginal seats at last year's General Election.
Deliberate breach of spending limits by individual candidates – usually around £15,000 – is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or even a one-year jail term.
Any candidate found guilty would automatically be barred from holding public office for three years, triggering a new election
According to an investigation by Channel 4 News, the accommodation costs of activists bussed around the country to campaign in key constituencies were recorded as national expenditure.
The Electoral Commission is investigating whether these should have been recorded under individual candidates' limits.
Yesterday, the watchdog said its ongoing probe into alleged breaches of reporting obligations will take at least another month - past the one-year time limit for launching criminal proceedings.
It is meeting with police forces covering the constituencies involved and the Crown Prosecution Service on May 4 to ask them to seek an extension to ensure the door is not closed.
The Tory party blames an 'administrative error' for failing to register some accommodation costs.
But David Cameron insists it was right to include such expenditure as part of the national campaign rather than against the limits imposed on individual candidates.
Bob Posner, director of party and election finance and legal counsel at the Electoral Commission said: 'The police and the CPS both have the power to apply to the courts to extend the time limit on bringing criminal prosecutions for electoral offences to allow for full investigations to take place. We have requested that they consider doing this.'
The commission said it did not take any view as to whether the party should be pursued under the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1983, which regulates candidate spending.
But if no extension is sought, the ability to do so will expire a year after the submission of returns - which had to be with the Electoral Commission within 35 days of the election on May 7, 2015.
An extension can be sought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
No police investigation has yet been launched but the commission said it seemed 'sensible for the criminal justice agencies to retain the ability to take action should appropriate evidence come to light as part of the commission's own investigation'.
Earlier this month, the Tories admitted failing to declare £38,000 of hotel costs for activists.
Conservative Central Office blamed an 'administrative error' for the failure to declare costs related to the BattleBus 2015 project.
BattleBus2015 was the brainchild of Mark Clarke, the so-called 'Tatler Tory' who is accused of bullying the Tory activist Elliott Johnson, who committed suicide last year. Mr Clarke denies any wrongdoing.
A CPS spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm that we have received a letter from the Electoral Commission concerning the 2015 general election.
'The Electoral Commission has asked the CPS to consider making application(s) to the Court under section 176 of the Representations of the People Act 1983 to extend the time for bringing prosecutions.
'We are meeting with the Electoral Commission and police on 4 May and we will respond before the time limit expires.'
Devon and Cornwall Police said: 'Following the Channel 4 News programme... on electoral spending, we have received a very small number of allegations and inquiries are continuing.
'Devon and Cornwall Police, plus representatives from other forces in which constituencies are believed to have been affected, has been invited to a meeting in relation to the election expenses of the Conservative Party, along with representatives from the Electoral Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service.'


Oh don't worry it was just an 'administrative error'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Doug D

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Re: Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

Post by Doug D on 02.06.16 8:20

Tory expenses: police given extra time to investigate
Police are granted extra time to investigate Conservative election spending in South Thanet, despite the MP and his agent opposing the application.
Kent Police will have longer to look at what the Tories spent in the general election in South Thanet, where Craig Mackinlay beat Ukip leader Nigel Farage, following a Channel 4 News investigation.
The Conservatives had taken the unprecedented step of trying to oppose the court extension requested by the police.
The courts have also granted extensions to 11 other police forces to investigate claims of failure to properly declare expenses.
Timothy Straker QC, representing Kent Police said at the hearing today: "It is exceptional - we have allegations of national funds being used as it may be put by some, effectively to buy an election."
District Judge Barron said in his decision: "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."
South Thanet is the only constituency where a Conservative MP was attempting to oppose an extension to the 12-month legal time limit that local police have to investigate election returns.
For months, Channel 4 News has been investigating Conservative spending in South Thanet. We have reported how the party spent almost £20,000 supporting Mr Mackinlay - money that was either declared as national spending, not local spending, or not declared at all.
Today the battle moved here to Folkestone magistrates' court, where a district judge heard how Mr Mackinlay and his agent may have broken the law and that police needed more time to investigate.
James Laddie QC, one of the country's top lawyers, who represented Mr Mackinlay, told the court the police had dragged their heels and the time extension they wanted should be thrown out.
Kent Police's lawyer, Timothy Straker QC, argued that they were working with the Electoral Commission, whose investigation the court heard had been frustrated by the failure of the Conservative party to cooperate.
'Delayed and hindered'
In a submission to the court, the Electoral Commission said: "The investigation has been delayed and hindered by the failure of the [Conservative] Party to provide complete and timely disclosure.
"There is very significant public interest in this matter... the implications of the allegations are that individuals and/or the Conservative Party may have committed deliberate acts intended to circumvent the party and election finance rules... these allegations go to the very heart of our democracy."
Read the full witness statement by the Electoral Commission here
Our investigation has revealed how top Conservative party staff, like campaign specialist Marion Little, were parachuted into South Thanet to take over the campaign.
Hotel bills reveal a large number of workers were put up in hotels, including the party's former head of press and two special advisers who had worked for Home Secretary Theresa May.
The party used branded Battlebuses to bring more activists into the constituency to campaign for Mr Mackinlay. But the costs of it all were not declared on Mr Mackinlay's spending return and today the judge agreed that should be investigated.
The Conservative party, Mr Mackinlay and his agent insist all its spending was carried out in accordance with the law.
Channel 4 News has uncovered compelling evidence suggesting large-scale and systematic abuse of election rules by the Conservatives in the general election and three by-elections in 2014.
In these by-elections in Rochester and Strood, Clacton-on-Sea and Newark-upon-Trent, Channel 4 News found almost £100,000 spent during the campaigns that appears not to have been declared. If it had to be declared and was included on spending returns, all three Conservative candidates would have breached the legal spending limits.
Under the law, candidates and their election agents must not spend more than £100,000 on by-election campaigns. In all three seats, the Conservatives declared less than this limit. However, if the hotel costs we uncovered should have been included, the limit would have been exceeded.
An Electoral Commission investigation into the Conservative party's national spending is under way and is expected to take several months. Any candidate found guilty of an election offence could face up to one year in prison, and being barred from office for three years.

Doug D

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Re: Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

Post by Mirage on 02.06.16 9:46

Thanks Doug. 

The implications of this for the Referendum are not good. Postal votes are an issue for me, too. 

We have seen unseemly goings-on at Tower Hamlets and, more recently, Barnet during the London Mayoral. The latter case seemed to go quiet with no explanation forthcoming, unless I missed it. What reason was ever given for people having to be turned away? How difficult can it be to have everything right on the day?

 You never used to hear of this sort of polling day fiasco in the past. At Thanet even that Pub Landlord candidate looked gobsmacked when the returning officer read the results. Farage wanted a recount and IIRC made an official complaint but he was effectively between a rock and a hard place because accusations of poor loser are not good PR.

Kate McCann: "It's too 'ot. Give 'im a minute."


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Re; charges loom in Election battle bus funding 2015 election?

Post by willowthewisp on 02.06.16 11:13

How very dare anyone to cast spurious allegations of the "Conservative Party" doing any thing wrong in not investigating their role in abusing the process on Election 2015,as dodgy Dave was on"Board" the battle bus from the start?
Remember the ERM Dave 1992,seen skulking away in the back ground, when Norman was resigning as the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his part in the debacle, with you, dodgy Dave as an "Understudy", We'er Better Off Together, eh Dave,going to skulk off after the 23 June 2016?


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Re: Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

Post by plebgate on 02.06.16 14:05

Norman "if it aint hurting, it aint working", Lamont.  Didn't see any of them lose their homes though.   Well even if they had a mortgage to pay off the taxpayer expenses will ensure that they wouldn't lost their homes.


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Re: Charges loom in election probe: Police told by election watchdog to be prepared to prosecute dozens of Tory candidates and officials over spending limit breaches

Post by Cakefan64 on 02.06.16 14:56

I'm reminded of that phrase "creative accounting", very interested to see if anyone gets brought to book over this.

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