Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay denies 'shocking' election expenses charge

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

A Conservative candidate facing charges over his 2015 General Election expenses has denied he did anything wrong.

Craig Mackinlay - who defeated Ukip's Nigel Farage in South Thanet - has been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Mackinlay, 50, condemned the "shocking" decision to prosecute and said he was confident he would be cleared.

"Our justice system is underpinned by the presumption of innocence and I am confident that I will be acquitted as I have done nothing wrong and acted honestly and properly whilst a candidate in 2015, and as all candidates do, acted upon advice throughout," he said.

"Clearly this is a shocking decision by the CPS, given that I've done nothing wrong and I am confident that this will be made very clear as the matter progresses."

Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May gave him her backing, saying: "The Conservative party continues to believe that these allegations are unfounded.

"Craig Mackinlay is innocent until proven guilty and he remains our candidate."

Mackinlay said he was "disappointed" at the way the case had been handled by the CPS and Kent Police and questioned the timing of the announcement just days before the General Election on June 8.

He received support from both local Conservative activists - who said they would continue to campaign for him - and the party's national headquarters which said it believed the charges against all three accused were unfounded.

Mr Farage, who was beaten into second place by Mackinlay in 2015 by a margin of 2,812 votes, welcomed the CPS announcement.

The former Ukip leader predicted that the contest in the current election in South Thanet - where Mackinlay is again standing as the Conservative candidate - would now become a "straight fight" between Ukip and Labour.

He said: "Once again it is bad judgment from Theresa May. Why on earth would you allow someone to go ahead as General Election candidate when this cloud was clearly hanging over him? There will be questions."

Nigel Farage was beaten into second place by Mackinlay in 2015. Credit: PA

The CPS said the decision to press charges came after prosecutors received a file of evidence from Kent Police in April concerning allegations relating to Conservative Party expenditure during the 2015 election campaign.

"We then asked for additional inquiries to be made in advance of the June 11 statutory time limit by when any charges needed to be authorised," it said.

"Those inquiries have now been completed and we have considered the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

"We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people."

Last month the CPS said it had considered files from 14 other police forces but had decided not to bring charges against any other Conservative MPs or officials.

The investigations centred on claims that expenses relating to busloads of Conservative activists sent to key seats were wrongly reported as part of the party's national spending rather than in the candidates' local returns.