Legal loophole means Crown Prosecution Service has chickened out of election expenses fraud trials

Most of the allegations were about the use of ‘battle buses’ to transport activists into local constituencies.

Yes, the CPS has bottled it. Tories who were implicated in election fraud are opening their bottles of bubbly right now.

I wrote yesterday that this matter would should whether the CPS served justice or the Conservative Party. Well, we found out, didn’t we?

The organisation’s statement, from Nick Vamos, head of special crime, said it was impossible to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest – meaning police could not prove that any candidate or agent made a false declaration.

It goes on to say it is a technical offence for an election agent to fail to deliver a true return and, by omitting any ‘Battle Bus’ costs, the returns may have been inaccurate.

But we are told, “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.”

Told by Conservative Party headquarters?

That indicates clearly that none of these people bothered to check the legal requirements under which they were campaigning in 2015, and all were misled by their party leaders.

So the obvious question to ask is: Who misled these candidates and agents? And when will they be prosecuted?

My guess is that the answer to the second question is, when Hell freezes over.

The police and the CPS have dragged their feet over this matter since it was first reported. They wanted nothing to do with it.

I leave it to you to judge the reasons.

In terms of the general election, the decision means the candidates who had been under suspicion, who were successful in 2015, and all the agents involved, may continue campaigning to retain their seats on June 8.

But as voters, you need to ask yourself if the Conservative Party’s behaviour met the standard to be expected of a party of government.

Is it acceptable that Conservative Central HQ apparently failed to tell candidates and agents how to fill out their expenses forms properly?

Is it acceptable that, it seems, they never bothered to check the legal requirements themselves?

Is it acceptable that this legal loophole has allowed privilege to beat justice?

Will it be acceptable for the perpetrators to win another election – possibly by behaving in exactly the same way?

No, it isn’t.

One last thought:

If the Tories implicated in the election expenses fraud investigation are innocent because they didn’t know they were making inaccurate claims, that means they are incompetent and unfit for public office.

Here’s the CPS statement in all its rotten detail:

We have considered files of evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates’ expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign.

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.

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25 thoughts on “Legal loophole means Crown Prosecution Service has chickened out of election expenses fraud trials

  1. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    Was anyone really surprised? We need a new CPS when we get a proper government in place with Jeremy Corbyn!

    It is up to the people now as to whether we want to continue in this direction or vote for a change for decency and fairness for all.

  2. NMac

    Yet another whitewash. The fact that so many Tory candidates in different parts of the country and all in marginal constituencies, used the same system to cheat their way into office is evidence of an organised and systematic fraud conspiracy. Surely the jury are the best people to decide,when all the evidence and witnesses have been examined and cross-examined, whether there is sufficient evidence to convict, not just a bunch of government-controlled lawyers? Words fail me. Is there no limit to the corruption and criminal activity among these people which can just be swept under the carpet?

  3. Justin

    Which shows what a joke the CPS is, I recently had to deal with a situation where someone was held on a charge of theft that was unsubstantiated, that sat with the CPS for a month and no further action, when asked about a counter case against the accuser who quite merrily had given statements to the police naming a person was told they looked at that and decided it was probably not worth pursuing and that about sums up the cps, easy target lets go for it, something they have to do some hard work or against the establishment, how dare they, not in public interest,what should be public interest is a overhaul of the cps, what is the point in having all that money waisted, police resources waisted so some lying tory can as usual get away with it

  4. jason parry

    claims they didn’t know it was breaking election law is simply a reflection of incompetence.

  5. Neilth

    Since when has ignorance of the law been a defence? ‘Sorry milord I didn’t know driving under the influence of drugs was against the law so I’m innocent.’ Don’t think that would wash in any court in the land. ‘Sorry I didn’t know I was supposed to pay tax on the money I’ve salted away in the Caymans” oh yeah that works.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I like the ‘incompetence’ line that was just suggested by another commenter.

      1. Rusty

        Incompetents is just as excuse! Tories are best at using loop holes! Corruption more like!!!

  6. NMac

    They talk about a prosecution “not being in the public interest”. I would suggest that it is most definitely in the public interest to have all the witnesses and evidence aired in a court of law and not behind closed doors by government-employed lawyers. Cover-up. Cover-up. Cover-up.

  7. Martin Odoni

    In fairness to the CPS, it’s not that they are trying to claim that it wasn’t fraud. The Service operates on probability-of-conviction when it comes to pressing charges in ANY circumstances. Yes, we all strongly suspect that that the fraud was deliberate, but strong suspicions are not enough in a court of law. They need conclusive evidence to be confident of a successful prosecution; if they haven’t got enough, they don’t want to risk pressing charges for now, because if the prosecution fails, double-jeopardy laws will prevent them from trying again later in the event more evidence comes to light.

    It’s maddening, but that’s the way it has to be. If they don’t apply it in cases of electoral fraud, they won’t be allowed for any other crimes. At that point, a lot of people will get a criminal record just for ‘looking guilty’.

    1. NMac

      Martin, it does not alter the fact that it was in the public interest that this should have been aired publicly in a court of law, not decided in secret by government-employed lawyers.The CPS’s own statement makes it clear there was dishonesty involved. It also begs the question that if the Agents were acting on advice from Tory Head Office why there has been no investigation into who was giving this “false advice”. It all smacks of cover-up and whitewash by the Establishment – there is a great deal of truth in the old adage, “The Establishment looks after its own.”

      1. Martin Odoni

        I agree it smacks of a cover-up, but that doesn’t mean the CPS are in on it. Yes, it would be better if these things were aired publicly, but not in a court. If that happened, it would have to be a trial, and if the trial acquits the Tories, that’s it, they can never be convicted over it.

        A proper, independent, and completely public inquiry would be better, especially as it may find more information that the CPS *can* use as extra evidence.

    2. John

      Perhaps it does beg THIS question? If the evidence they have had so far (probably mainly supplied by Channel 4 News), wasn’t sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, WHAT evidence WOULD have been sufficient?

      1. Martin Odoni

        It was actually 2005, but a replacement double-jeopardy clause was included in the Criminal Justice Act that year. It is now possible to retry over the same crime ONCE – but only if the Court Of Appeal is willing to quash the original verdict, which is rare.

  8. rhod

    If the government had nothing to hide, they’d WANT this to be fully investigated to clear the names of their MPs. Instead, the fact that it’s been dropped by the CPS leaves a bad smell hanging around, and allegations of collusion or pressure being brought to bear. I also agree with the person who wrote that ignorance of the law is no defence.

  9. John Curran

    I said right from the start no charges would be brought.its one law for the MPs and crooked bankers and others less well off

  10. casalealex

    Strange, but, from what I read, there was talk about the CPS report not being available before the election. Then lo and behold the report is published earlier than first intimated.

    As the report ‘exonerates’ MPs from any wrongdoing, I can’t help but wonder if the Tory Oligarchy had early sighting of the report, and finding it to their liking, and no prosecutions forthcoming, they brought forward the publishing of the report, as part and parcel of Tory electioneering….

  11. Yvette Holden

    Got away with cheating, It’s no democracy the Tories cheat and murder and no one holds them to account!! This is an outrage, it should of gone to trial and let the people decide not corrupt officials!! So Tories can cheat all elections in the knowledge the media and police will protect them!!

  12. Sven Wraight

    The Tories had so long to get campaign finances right. So many could have asked questions or pointed out that Conservative interpretation of the law was wrong. If the CPS want to claim that it was all a big mistake, they should prove it, not say it. It is beyond reasonable doubt to presume this was a mistake, and if the CPS wanted to claim “beyond reasonable doubt” was subjective, a jury should have decided it, not the CPS who can’t prove they’re unbiased.
    Bottom line: they’ll break the law worse in future!

Comments are closed.