Metropolitan Police placed under pressure to act re Vote Leave breaching election law
On Thursday 11 October, an article appeared on the Open Democracy UK website outlining the failure of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to act on the evidence provided against the Vote Leave campaign by the Electoral Commission. The article accused the MPS of stalling or delaying investigations, citing a remark made by MPS spokesperson that there were “political sensitivities”, when asked about the progress of their investigation.
Referrals had been made to the MPS in May and July of this year, detailing overspending by the Vote Leave campaign that had resulted in the maximum fines possible. This was supported by 900 documents handed over to the MPS in September.
Sue Wilson comments: “The article rightly enquired why, after substantial evidence was provided to the police, no action was taken to investigate those implicated. Our own legal challenge calls into question the legitimacy of the Referendum and the decision to trigger Article 50, considering the Vote Leave campaign being found guilty of breaking electoral law ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. We had assumed, perhaps naively, that the police would proceed with vigour and speed.”
Although nothing was reported in the print media, the response on Twitter was immediate and robust. Several politicians – including Caroline Lucas, Tom Brake, Tom Watson and David Lammy - expressed their concern and outrage, with Lammy commenting on Twitter that he would raise the matter in Parliament. Layla Moran shared a letter she had written to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary expressing her concern “that ‘political sensitivities’ is simply a cover for political interference” and asked that May use her position to encourage the MPS to act promptly.
The MPS responded quickly with a brief statement, refuting allegations that it had failed to respond to the Electoral Commission’s referrals. It added that the documents were “being assessed by the MPS in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required”.
The comments from MPS did not reassure those people concerned by the apparent stalling of investigations. Jessica Simor QC, barrister for the UK in EU Challenge, said: “It is hard to understand what has been happening since May/July when the Electoral Commission referred Leave.EU and then Vote Leave to the police. The police cannot fail to investigate alleged crimes because of politics. If that is what is going on, then something is going very wrong indeed.”
On Sunday 14, Damian Collins MP, chair of the Commons committee investigating illegal data use, expressed his concerns in the ‘Observer’. He pointed out that the police have a duty to investigate and failing to do so makes no sense. He stated that a “proper response” was needed.
Wilson concludes: “The MPS’ own legal counsel, Bob Posner, described the folio of evidence provided by the Electoral Commission as ‘clear and substantial’ yet the Metropolitan Police has failed to act. This is an absolute disgrace and will add to the public perception that those in positions of power play by different rules to the rest of us. This is why our legal challenge is so important.”
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Notes for editors
For further information please contact
Sue Wilson, Chair
Tel: + 34 696 056 328
Deputy Press Officer
Tel: + 44 7549 504281
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