Craig Mackinlay, Conservative candidate for South Thanet, charged over 2015 'battle bus' election expenses

Earlier in this campaign, 22 Conservative MPs found out that they would not face charges for alleged over-spending in the 2015 General Election, after a CPS decision that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. Only one MP was left out of that list – Craig Mackinlay, former MP and current candidate for South Thanet – as allegations surrounding him had been received by the CPS at a later date.

Earlier today, Mackinlay was charged over his election expenses. His election agent and a party activist have also been charged.

Mackinlay is the only candidate to have been charged over alleged wrongdoing in the 2015 ‘battle bus’ scandal.

Police forces have been investigating whether MPs' agents should have filed costs for battle bus visits to constituencies under local expenses. The police have found bringing prosecutions against any other candidates or members of their 2015 campaigns difficult, as candidates and election agents who were advised by central party that battle bus expenses should not have been included in the final constituency expenses account and believed that in good faith were not themselves breaking the law.

Election law is governed by two different bodies in the UK. The police govern local campaigns, meaning that a candidate who breaks the law is dealt with by the police and could face criminal action. National party campaigns are governed by the electoral commission, which can only hand out fines.

The party has been fined the maximum amount by the electoral commission for their battle bus spending.

Craig Mackinlay, his agent Nathan Gray and Marion Little a party activist, 62, have each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 4 July 2017.

As the deadline has passed to amend candidate lists, Mackinlay will still be Conservative candidate in South Thanet on the 9th of June.

The Conservative Party said they had been campaigning "across the country for the return of a Conservative government" and, as a result, associated costs were regarded as national and not local expenditure.

 

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