Aquitted South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay slams wasted “millions” on “political show trial”

The MP and protesters outside Southwark Crown Court at the start of the trial Photo Martin Lea/rights Rob Yates

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has slammed the use of millions of pounds of taxpayers money to pursue him in “a political show trial” in th aftermath of his acquittal on election expense fraud charges.

The MP, who was cleared by a jury at Southwark Crown Court today (January 9) of falsifying his election expenses for his 2015 campaign against then-Ukip leader Nigel Farage, says the legal action has put him “through hell.”

Mr Mackinlay, 52, had been accused of failing to declare more than £60,000 spent on staffing, hotels and advertising.

Prosecutors said he ignored strict spending limits to beat Mr Farage, and told Southwark Crown Court Mr Mackinlay’s victory could have been declared void had the true position been known.

But the jury acquitted him of two charges of knowingly making a false election expenses declaration under the Representation of the People Act 1983 after deliberating for 53 hours and 29 minutes, having retired on December 5.

Senior Tory party official Marion Little was found guilty of two counts of intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.

Following the verdict Mr Mackinlay said there needs to be more clarity on election law. He also levelled criticism at the Electoral Commission, the CPS and Kent Police for bringing the prosecution.

Craig Mackinlay

He said: “I have endured close to three years of pure hell since allegations were raised by media agencies, and Channel 4 particularly, in February 2016. The general election campaign in South Thanet in 2015 was a unique one, facing Nigel Farage, the then leader of UKIP. It was clear that UKIP had focused every resource available in support of their leader. It was not at all unexpected, from my standpoint, that the national Conservative Party would take an interest in the seat.

“I now have extreme concerns as to the clarity of election law, and the glaring grey area between national spending rules (under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000) and local spending rules (under the Representation of the People Act 1983). Candidates and Agents should never have to face the threat of criminal prosecution, with life-changing consequences, in the face of abstract law.

“The legal position had gone through various tests through the courts prior to trial. The Court of Appeal in front of the Lord Chief Justice in March 2018 concluded that election expenses can only be so if authorised by a candidate or agent. The Crown Prosecution Service progressed this point to the Supreme Court in July 2018, who ruled that election expenses should be so, if ‘used’ during the election, even if not authorised. After this trial, election law needs urgent clarification, but I have concerns whether the Electoral Commission as currently constructed is at all fit for purpose to assist in this task.

‘Taxpayers’ millions’

“I await a statement from the Electoral Commission, the CPS and Kent Police as to how they justify millions of pounds of taxpayers money in pursuing me in a political show trial. Undoubtedly Freedom of Information requests will show, in time, the true cost to the taxpayer.

“I would like to thank my wife, family and friends for their support throughout. My legal team told my accurate story to the Southwark jury who came to the correct conclusions.

“But my most sincere thanks go to my constituents of South Thanet, who were informed of my charge for election offences just six days before the 2017 General Election. They supported me with 25,262 votes and 50.8% of the vote: the highest number of votes for a Conservative in the history of the South Thanet seat.

“This lengthy trial has kept me away from serving them as fully as I’d like both in Parliament and in the Constituency. I now intend to put that right over the months and years ahead.”

Nigel Farage with Cllr Stuart Piper in Sandwich Photo David Stillman

The South Thanet constituency  was considered a key seat in the 2015 general election as the Conservatives fought against the increasingly popular Ukip.

Mr Mackinlay won in 2015 with a majority of around 2,800 from an electorate of 70,000 and was also re-elected to Parliament in 2017 just a week after he was charged.

10 Comments

  1. Are you familiar with the internet Councillor Lewis? I find it useful for researching the answers to questions before I expose my ignorance to the world. And as an elected official you should know the answer to your own question.

    • Well clearly, not many elected officials do know those rules, if they did then they wouldn’t get into a mess like this. It’s all good and well stating they should know all the rules about everything but who does? These people have other jobs and roles as well as their political side.
      What a huge waste of public money though. These rules need updating and clarifying so this cannot happen again, but if it should do, then a penalty to pay without the expense of long court cases please.

  2. Marva is correct.hc law is not set in stone , this ruling has made the responsibly of filling the election expenses unclear as how can 2,defendants be acquitted while the third be found guilty

  3. Perhaps he should remember that this was a complex case & the jury took over 50 hours to reach a decision. Also that indeed one person was found guilty of deliberately cooking the books & if not for her husband having a terminal illness she would have been sent to jail by the judge. Did he never ask why he had such a young man with zero experience running this very high profile campaign for him? It seems the powers that be were looking for a patsy if their little ruse was rumbled-the young greenhorn signing off on everything, thankfully the jury saw through that little charade & instead found the old warhorse big gun guilty of fiddling. Mr Mackinlay’s trying to put all the heat on the other two says a lot about the true character of the man, as does his whining about the investigation & trial & trying to deflect attention elsewhere.

  4. Hardly a “political show trial” wasting money. Someone was convicted and came close to prison. She was convicted of encouraging or assisting another person to break election expenses law. Curiously, the other person who was “encouraged” or “assisted” by her has not been identified. But he or she must exist or else Marion Little was treated unfairly. Will the Police now continue to search out the person who was encouraged or assisted in this offence? Or has something caused them to stop bothering?

  5. Let us keep this in some sort of perspective and consider the FACTS :

    1): The offence took place; the law was broken; Marion Little was found guilty and sentenced

    2): Craig Mackinlay was found not guilty of the charge of knowing that the the law was being broken.

    It is as simple as that !

  6. It was hardly a “political show trial”, as he ensured that it couldn’t be covered in the press! It is highly irresponsible of him to talk of “wasting millions”, when a crime was committed, and a serious one. No-one is arguing that the law was broken; that is a fact and a matter of public record. Our MP should have more respect for the law. Marion Little is guilty of assisting a crime, but no-one appears to be guilty of the crime itself. Someone must be guilty, and there should be consequences for whoever it is. Mackinlay’s attitude seems to be that crimes shouldn’t be investigated or brought to court, and that there should be no consequences for important electoral laws being broken. Does he think some laws can be broken and others ignored; or does he think that as an MP, he should be above the law?

  7. It was hardly a “political show trial”, as he ensured that it couldn’t be covered in the press! It is highly irresponsible of him to talk of “wasting millions”, when a crime was committed, and a serious one. No-one is arguing that the law wasn’t broken; that is a fact and a matter of public record. Our MP should have more respect for the law. Marion Little is guilty of assisting a crime, but no-one appears to be guilty of the crime itself. Someone must be guilty, and there should be consequences for whoever it is. Mackinlay’s attitude seems to be that some crimes shouldn’t be investigated or brought to court, and that there should be no consequences for important electoral laws being broken. Does he think some laws can be broken and others ignored; or does he think that as an MP, he should be above the law?

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