Prosecution Rates: Electoral Fraud

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 23rd May 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What recent discussions he has had with the CPS on prosecution rates for electoral fraud.

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The Crown Prosecution Service works closely with the police, including by providing early investigative advice, to consider any allegations of electoral fraud in accordance with the code of Crown prosecutors. The Crown Prosecution Service recognises the importance of protecting democracy, and all cases involving election offences are referred to specialist prosecutors within the Crown Prosecution Service’s special crime and counter-terrorism division.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

Of 266 reported electoral fraud cases last year, only one resulted in a conviction. The Vote Leave campaign dropping its appeal is as good as its admitting the illegality and illegitimacy of the 2016 referendum result. When will electoral law breaking be treated as a serious crime? Will the Attorney General also ensure that there is a full, transparent, independent inquiry into the foreign funding of Nigel Farage’s new vehicle?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The hon. Lady is quite right that electoral fraud is serious. From whichever side it comes—a referendum campaign or a political party—it must be dealt with according to the law, and it is dealt with unflinchingly. We have an independent Electoral Commission that investigates electoral fraud, and it is right that the Government should allow the commission to be independent, as it must be. However, if a case is referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, it is dealt with precisely according to the code in the same way as any other offence. It is dealt with by trained specialist prosecutors, and a single point of contact in each police force is also trained in election offences. While there may be many allegations, those that are fit for prosecution will be prosecuted—I can give the hon. Lady that assurance.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

I think that we all agree that electoral fraud should be rooted out and tackled, but the question is one of priorities. Many of us fail to understand why the Government appear obsessed with personation and individual electoral fraud, spending so much time and energy on a problem that is virtually non-existent, at a time when the Electoral Commission finds Vote Leave and other campaigns guilty of electoral fraud and is currently investigating the Brexit party. Is it not time that the Government reassessed their priorities and focused on the organised campaigns that try to thwart our procedures?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

I cannot comment on any ongoing investigations that may be carried out, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, but the Electoral Commission, as he knows, is independent and is charged with responsibility for ensuring the integrity of elections. The commission has a full range of powers that it is able to use, and it takes its decisions with full independence.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that if any prima facie case of electoral fraud is referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, it will be dealt with with complete and utter impartiality, and will be prosecuted.

Several hon. Members:

rose—