A judge has granted police extra time to investigate all election fraud in South Thanet, where the Conservative party snatched victory from UKIP denying Nigel Farage a seat in Parliament.
District judge Justin Barron said claims surrounding Tory expenses were on an “unprecedented scale”, could result in “election results being declared void”, and insisted there is a “very significant public interest in the matter being fully investigated”.
According to the Guardian, the judge added in his summary:
“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.”
Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay won the seat by just 2,800 votes in last May’s general election, but now stands accused of spending well over the legal limit of £15,000 on his campaign.
Yesterday the same court, Folkestone Magistrates, rejected an unusual request from the Tory MP to block police from investigating the allegations at all.
Mr. Farage accused the Tories of unfair play from the outset – pointing to the busloads of activists, cabinet ministers, the Mayor of London, and even staff from Tory Central Office and the Prime Minister’s Office who had arrived in constituency to desperately campaign against the UKIP surge.
On the 13th of May, South Thanet Police insisted that initial investigations had revealed nothing suspicious.
“The council’s returning officer is satisfied that the correct processes were followed and a member of the Electoral Commission was present at the election in Thanet,” they said in a statement.
However, a Channel 4 investigation subsequently raised serious questions about Tory spending, alleging that the party spent thousands of pounds on hotels, some that were used as “campaign headquarters”, which they did not disclose on election spending.
The Conservatives insist these activists were campaigning nationally, not for individual MPs, and that all their spending was “properly declared in accordance with the law”.