Police say Brexit investigation 'nearing completion' as Remain MPs demand answers
PUBLISHED: 17:11 03 July 2019
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Police have revealed that one of its two Leave campaign investigations could be nearing completion - but another is being held up because it needs more information from the Electoral Commission.
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The revelation comes after a cross-party group of pro-Remain MPs crowdfunded to seek a judicial review to hurry along the Metropolitan Police's investigations into whether criminal charges should be brought against Leave.EU and Vote Leave.
The Met have pushed back strongly against the threatened legal action, which demands officers reach a decision within 14 days - but it has prompted police to "exceptionally" reveal some of their progress via a solicitor's letter.
In one of the investigations, police are "nearing the time when the [Met police] may be in a position to submit a file to the [Crown Prosecution Service] for early investigative advice". In the other, however, they say that "the investigation remains outstanding due to incomplete disclosure from the [Electoral Commission]". The police's solicitor, Richard Barnes, said they don't know when the material will be delivered or how voluminous it will be, so can't give an estimate of how long their recommendations will take.
So as not to prejudice the ongoing investigation, they released the information without specifying which progress applied to Vote Leave and which to Leave.EU.
Met commissioner Cressida Dick said in mid-May that a decision whether or not there has been a criminal offence was due to be made "within weeks" rather than months.
MORE: Police investigating Leave campaign could make decision 'within weeks'
In July 2018, the Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave, Darren Grimes of BeLeave, and David Banks for Veterans for Britain for electoral offences. Vote Leave had exceeded its £7 million spending limit by nearly £500,000, and files were passed to police for potential criminal investigation - which Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has now criticised for "foot-dragging".
Introducing the MPs' legal crowdfunder, which has reached its goal of £25,000, Brake said on his website: "The public is entitled to know, without delay, whether any criminal law-breaking took place in the run-up, during and after the EU referendum campaign.
"Foot-dragging is not an option for the police when investigating claims relating to the integrity of our democracy."
Barnes responded on behalf of the Met that the legal challenge was unlikely to succeed. He said group of MPs do not have the standing for it, as they are neither complainants nor suspects in the case, and added: "there is a very high hurdle to be overcome" for a court to intervene just on the basis of the police taking too long.
"The [Met police] ought not without very good reason be put in the potentially highly awkward position of having to explain and justify the course of an ongoing investigation," wrote Barnes.
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