The Crown Prosecution Service has decided to take no further action in respect of false electoral expense allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates at the 2015 General Election.
The CPS says while the expenses involved may have been inaccurate, it would not have been possible to prove this was done knowingly or dishonestly by the individuals concerned.
The allegations related to constituencies visited by the party’s “Battle Bus” which was declared as national rather than local expenditure.
Among those affected by the decision is Devon and Cornwall PCC Alison Hernandez, who acted as election agent for Torbay candidate Kevin Foster in the election, and therefore signed-off the campaign expenses.
She said she was “delighted” with the news.
A statement from CPS Head of Special Crime Nick 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.
“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 Act also makes it a technical offence for an election agent to fail to deliver a true return. By omitting any ‘Battle Bus’ costs, the returns may have been inaccurate.
"However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly.”
In her own statement, Devon and Cornwall PCC Alison Hernandez said she had carried out her duties regardless.
“It is now two years on from these events and I am pleased that the shadow of the investigation has now been removed,” she said.
“My political opponents have regularly called for me to stand down over the past year but I have been determined not to let the investigation affect the way that I carry out my duties as police and crime commissioner.
“Being under police investigation is a very sobering experience. This investigation has been independent at every stage – the police work was undertaken by West Mercia Police with no involvement from Devon and Cornwall.
“The report was initially reviewed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and then by the Crown Prosecution Service. I would like to thank all of the agencies involved in this matter for their professionalism.”
She also thanked her friends, family and office staff for their support.
The CPS says it is still considering one file it received more recently from Kent Police into a similar allegation.