Two dozen Conservative MPs under investigation for electoral fraud will find out whether they face prosecution in the weeks before the surprise elections on June 8, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed.
The announcement on whether the Conservative MPs accused of misrepresenting local and national spending rules to bypass their campaign budgets in the 2015 General Elections will therefore take place during their campaign for re-election.
In theory, individual seats could be declared invalid if incumbent MPs are found to have broken the law. The government has a current working majority of 17 MPs.
CPS is reportedly considering charges against over 30 individuals, not all of them MPs.
No criminal charges have yet been levied, although Karl McCartney of Lincoln and William Wragg of Greater Manchester’s Hazel Grove have both confirmed that they are under investigation.
A source from the CPS told Buzzfeed News that the snap election announcement last Tuesday had taken them by surprise, but: “the deadlines are the deadlines.”
When asked whether the MPs involved would be stepping down, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Channel 4 News: “We’re not trying to get in the way at all of the proper due process of law, that must go ahead, but we believe that the Conservatives and the MPs in question and the agents have behaved properly.”
“If there are any conclusions to the contrary, we will pay the fines, whatever is appropriate. But at the moment, what we’ve been focusing on today, is that we want to have this general election and we’re making the case for it.”
“The impact on the prosecutions, whether they make them or not from the CPS, is not impacted by this.”
The case came to head last month, when the Electoral Commission, which had been investigating the spending allegations in hand with the National Police Chiefs Council and 19 local forces, died the Conservative Party a record £70,000 for failing to declare over £275,000 of campaign spending,
This included £102,000 for the election “battle bus”, which targeted key seats, costing an estimated £2,000 a day including payments for volunteers. Local electoral spending limits, however, are typically capped at around £15,000 to ensure financially fair campaigning.
Fourteen police forces across the country have already passed their investigations onto the CPS, which received a 12-month extension to decide whether to prosecute — an extension which expires this May 20.
The police forces who have handed in their files are: Avon & Somerset, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon & Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Metropolitan, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, West Mercia, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire.
Warwickshire Police have yet to hand in their files.