Tory MP appears in court for expense fiddling over election battle bus

A Tory MP and his two aides accused of misdeclaring expenses after breaching election campaign spending limits in the 2015 general election will face trial, a court heard today.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, 50, is said to have not properly reported expenses in his local return.

Mackinlay, his election agent at the time Nathan Gray, 28, and campaign specialist Marion Little, 62, were all charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

The charges relate to allegations that the party’s election expenses during the 2015 campaign in the constituency were not properly reported to the Electoral Commission.

They all appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today (tues) where all three indicated not guilty pleas to the charges.

Expenses incurred during the campaign in South Thanet were wrongly attributed to national expenditure instead of local expenditure, it is claimed.

Had they done so, they would allegedly have been in breach of spending limits.

They are said to concern the costs of battle buses used to bring in activists and hotel accommodation.

Mackinlay, who gave his address as Ramsgate, Kent, is charged with two counts of making false election expenses declarations.

The first charge claims that, on June 11 2015, being a candidate, he “knowingly made the declaration accompanying the return for the regulated period from 19 December 2014 to 29 March 2015”.

The second charge alleges that, on June 11 2015, being a candidate, he “knowingly made the declaration accompanying the return for the regulated period from 30 March 2015 to 7 May 2015”.

Gray, of Cranbrook, Kent, appeared charged with one count of making false election expenses declaration on June 11.

It claims that, being the election agent, he “knowingly made the declaration accompanying the return for the regulated period from 30 March 2015 to 7 May 2015”.

Little, of Ware, Herts, was charged with three counts of the same.

The first alleges that she “did aid, abet, counsel and procure Craig Mackinlay”, to “knowingly make the declaration accompanying the return for the regulated period from 19 December 2014 to 29 March 2015”.

The second charge also involves Mackinlay but covers the period of 30 March 2015 to 7 May 2015.

And the third charge she faces claims she did “aid, abet, counsel and procure Nathan Gray, being the election agent for Craig Mackinlay a candidate in the Thanet South constituency at the UK Parliamentary General Election on 7th May 2015, to knowingly make the declaration accompanying the return for the regulated period from 30 March 2015 to 7 May 2015”.

During the 2015 election, Mackinlay beat former Ukip leader Nigel Farage by more than 2,000 votes in the Kent constituency.

Mackinlay was re-elected as MP for South Thanet in last month’s general election.

The hearing continues.

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