Tory election spending: CPS announces it will not charge Conservative candidates amid campaign spending allegations

Prosecutors said no charges will be taken forward at this point while Tory MPs claimed allegations were politically motivated

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The Crown Prosecution Service has announced it will make no charges against Conservative candidates who were alleged to have broken election spending rules.

Offences were said to have taken place in the run up to the 2015 election, but the CPS said in most cases the matter will not be taken forward with a single case still under consideration.

In a statement on Wednesday CPS Head of Special Crime Nick Vamos said "no criminal charges have been authorised", but angry Tory MPs claimed there had been a "witchhunt" and cabinet minister Patrick McLoughlin said "malicious claims" had been made.

The allegations related to claims that incorrect expenses were filed for the party’s campaign 2015 battle bus, which travelled the country during that year's election.

Candidates were accused of labelling spending on hotels and campaign material as national spending rather than local, potentially allowing them to increase their constituency campaigning without breaking a legal spending ceiling.

Mr Vamos said: "We reviewed the files in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and have concluded the tests in the Code are not met and no criminal charges have been authorised."

He explained the CPS had considered evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative candidates' expenditure during the 2015 election.

Mr Vamos went on: "Under the Representation of the People Act, every candidate and agent must sign a declaration on the expenses return that to the best of their knowledge and belief it is a complete and correct return as required by law.

"It is an offence to knowingly make a false declaration. In order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration.

"Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest."

The Conservatives have already admitted under-declaring spending on their national 2015 campaign and were fined £70,000 as a result, but they insist all local spending was properly declared.

The Metropolitan Police is also considering whether the treasurer at the time, Simon Day, 'knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration'. While the CPS is still considering one case file handed in by Kent Police.

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But in a strong response, Conservative Party Chairman Mr McLoughlin said that the situation had been exacerbated by "false and malicious claims" about Tory candidates on the internet. 

He said: "After a very thorough investigation, we are pleased that the legal authorities have confirmed what we believed was the case all along, that these Conservative candidates did nothing wrong.

"These were politically motivated and unfounded complaints that have wasted police time. We are glad that this matter is finally resolved."

Tory candidates involved who are standing for re-election hit back this morning. Karl McCartney, standing in Lincoln, said:  "This whole saga amounts to no more than a politically-motivated witch-hunt."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told BBC: "I am interested and surprised by it. We will have to look at the details."