Craig Mackinlay, the Tory candidate for South Thanet who pipped former UKIP chief Nigel Farage to the House of Commons in a controversial 2015 race, is set to be charged with electoral offences under the Representation of the People Act.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) released a statement declaring their intention to bring Mackinlay before a court, along with two others, after a Kent Police investigation into breaches of electoral spending rules during the contest:
On 18 April we received a file of evidence from Kent Police concerning allegations relating to Conservative Party expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign. We then asked for additional enquiries to be made in advance of the 11 June statutory time limit by when any charges needed to be authorised.
Those enquiries have now been completed and we have considered the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people.
Craig Mackinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 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.
Criminal proceedings have now commenced and it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.
Mackinlay had mounted an extraordinary attempt to block the police from investigating the South Thanet contest in 2016 but was unsuccessful.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed that Mackinlay may still stand for the Tories in the upcoming snap election, however, and the party have released a statement supporting their candidate and criticising what they describe as “fragmented, confused and unclear” electoral legislation:
The legal authorities have previously cleared Conservative candidates who faced numerous politically motivated and unfounded complaints over the Party’s national Battlebus campaigning.
We continue to believe that this remaining allegation is unfounded. Our candidate has made clear that there was no intention by him or his campaigners to engage in any inappropriate activity. We believe that they have done nothing wrong, and we are confident that this will be proven as the matter progresses.
The individuals remain innocent unless otherwise proven guilty in a court of law. The press, parties and those on social media should be aware of the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act and the strict liability rules against publishing anything which would prejudice the course of justice.
There is a broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation, and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law to tackle the real and proven cases of corruption that were exposed in Tower Hamlets in 2015.
Responding to the news, Farage said he was pleased that someone had finally been charged over the irregularities.
My only regret is that there aren’t quite a lot more of them, because I personally believe that the law was being broken wholesale in by-elections and in the General Election in all their key target seats.
What does it mean? Well, effectively what it means in that constituency is that, whilst his name will stay on the ballot paper, I think the chances of people voting for him are now very slim.
So, I think that constituency will be a straight fight, now, between UKIP and the Labour Party, and I will be there tomorrow afternoon giving a soeech at 5 o’clock to support our candidate.”
BREAKING: Nigel Farage responds to Craig Mackinlay being charged. Will be in South Thanet tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/t2rVQYDm4u
— Dan Jukes (@DanJukes17) June 2, 2017
Speaking after the announcement from the Crown Prosecution Service today, former Senior Advisor to Nigel Farage Raheem Kassam said:
“We endured a lot during the 2015 campaign: death threats, assaults, and a huge, cross-party, concerted attempt to keep Nigel Farage and UKIP out of parliament.
Well, the alleged bully boy tactics of the political establishment seemed to succeed, but today the truth may be beginning to emerge about the Conservative Party’s candidate Craig Mackinlay and alleged Tory expenses.
“This of course has massive ramifications at a local level, but on a national level, people will seek clarification from the Prime Minister. After all, it was Theresa May’s chief of staff who was involved in the 2015 South Thanet campaign.
“What did Theresa May know, and when?
“What assurances can the PM give that the Tories are not doing the very same thing at this election?
“Up and down the country people will be watching to see if Mrs. May has any integrity and acts to suspend Nick Timothy from her team. If not, how can anyone trust her to be the strong and stable leader Britain needs?”
In March, a cache of secret emails seen by Channel 4 News indicated that Theresa May’s chief of staff, Nick Timothy, may have been involved in helping Mackinlay to allegedly break election rules, but it is unclear whether or not he will feature in the upcoming court case.