Response to Craig Mackinlay verdict: "an advert to break the law, not a disincentive"

After one month of deliberation a jury returned the verdict of not guilty for Craig Mackinlay MP, while senior Tory party worker, Marion Little, was convicted on two accounts.

Responding to the case’s conclusion, Director of Unlock Democracy Alexandra Runswick said:

“This verdict is cause for political parties to crack open the champagne. If the penalty for committing electoral fraud is walking away with a non-custodial sentence and a £5,000 fine that’s an advertisement to break the law, not a disincentive.

“Members of the public will find it baffling that a party staffer can be found guilty of breaking electoral law but there are no penalties for either the party or the candidate. If electoral law can be “abandoned”, as prosecutors told the jury it had been, this means it is not fit for purpose.

“Marion Little is a Conservative Party stalwart of over 40 years, so it is a stretch of the imagination to believe this is simply a case one individual going rogue. This is part of a wider pattern of political parties being let off the hook by outdated and ineffective electoral law. The Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats all got to walk away with a slap on the wrist after being found by the Electoral Commission to have broken electoral law in the 2015 General Election. At one point 27 sitting Conservative MPs were being investigated by the police, and the CPS considered charges against 30 individuals. Four years on there hasn’t even been a whiff of reform.

“Public trust in politics is damaged when there’s the perception that elections can be bought, and our current electoral law is an open invitation to try and buy elections. In a democracy the size of your wallet shouldn’t decide your political power, but until UK electoral law is reformed the power of the purse will continue to win out.”

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Sarah ClarkeComment