Conservative Karl McCartney has written to all other Lincoln general election candidates, threatening legal action against false or misleading statements in the wake of investigations into the party’s spending.
The letter comes after a Crown Prosecution Service investigation into Tory spending in the 2015 general election, which concluded last week by exonerating Mr McCartney along with other MPs implicated in the allegations.
Particular attention was given to the Conservative Battle Bus, which shipped representatives into marginal constituencies.
The Electoral Commission has already imposed a fine of £70,000 on the party following its own enquiry into the allegations.
On completion of its investigation, the CPS found that by omitting the Battle Bus costs, the returns were deemed inaccurate, however it was made clear that agents were told by party headquarters that costs would be part of the national campaign.
They added it was not possible to prove that any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly.
McCartney previously called for “heads to roll”, as well as a number of resignations, after the large-scale CPS probe into accusations of mis-recorded expenses.
In the letter sent on May 13, he stated he will take immediate action on any candidates or team members who make defamatory statements about his involvement in the issue.
He wrote: “I write simply to make it clear that I and my solicitors Manleys do not intend to tolerate any false, misleading or defamatory statements being made about my involvement in this issue during the remainder of the election campaign and beyond (whether in permanent or non-permanent form, i.e. in writing/social media posts, or spoken).
“While I am not suggesting you or members of your campaign team intend to engage in such statements, although some have in the past from your party, I simply write to underline that I will be taking the appropriate action without further notice, including, but not limited to, referring to the matter to the Police under s106 of the Representation of the People Act and/or pursuing defamation action against those making or repeating statements.
“Should any action be necessary, I expressly reserve my right to refer this correspondence to the appropriate authorities. In relation to any civil proceedings, this may form part of any submissions seeking an aggregated award for damages.”
Nick Vamos, CPS Head of Special Crime, said on conclusion of the investigation: “We have considered files of evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates’ expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign.
“We considered whether candidates and election agents working in constituencies that were visited by the Party’s ‘Battle Bus’ may have committed a criminal offence by not declaring related expenditure on their local returns. Instead, as the Electoral Commission found in its report, these costs were recorded as national expenditure by the Party.
“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. Therefore we have concluded it is not in the public interest to charge anyone referred to us with this offence.
“Our evaluation of the evidence is consistent with that of the Electoral Commission. While the role of the Commission is to regulate political finances and campaign spending, the role of the CPS is to consider whether any individual should face criminal charges, which is a different matter with different consideration and tests.”