Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative candidate in South Thanet, has been charged with election offences in the investigation into alleged over-spending in his party’s 2015 campaign, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.
Mackinlay, who beat the then Ukip leader Nigel Farage to the Kent seat by 2,812 votes at the last election, was the only Tory MP of around 20 still under investigation for alleged election offences. The 50-year-old is due to appear in court alongside his election agent Nathan Gray, 28, and senior Conservative organiser Marion Little, 62, next month. All three have been charged with offences under the 1983 Representation of the People Act.
The CPS said in a statement that it had found “sufficient evidence” to pursue a prosecution against the three:
“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.”
The Electoral Commission have confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that Mackinlay’s name remains on the ballot paper in South Thanet, where he is favourite to win.
A Tory spokesman said the party continued to believe the allegations against Mackinlay are “unfounded”, and that the former MP and his team “have done nothing wrong”.
“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. The Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law to tackle the real and proven cases of corruption that were exposed in Tower Hamlets in 2015.”