South Thanet election expense police inquiry extended

The Conservative battle bus Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Conservatives said the Battlebus tour was part of a national campaign

A further 12 months have been granted to Kent Police to investigate claims of improper election spending by the Conservative Party.

The inquiry centres on the South Thanet constituency, won for the Tories in the general election by Craig MacKinlay, who beat UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Granting the extension, District Judge Justin Barron described the allegations as "far-reaching".

The inquiry, he said, could lead to election results "being declared void."

"The consequences of a conviction would be of a local and national significance," the judge added.

The Tories blamed an "administrative error" for not declaring £38,000 of expenses for their Battlebus tour.

It follows a Channel 4 investigation into spending in key constituencies.

Kent Police said their application at Folkestone Magistrates' Court had allowed for "a further 12 months for an investigation".

Local expenses

Seventeen police forces across the country are looking into whether some MPs' agents should have filed costs associated with battle bus visits to their constituencies in their local expenses.

However, the Tories said they had been campaigning "across the country for the return of a Conservative government" and, as a result, associated costs were regarded as national not local expenditure.

The extension had to be secured before a year elapsed following the filing of the election expenses.

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