The Daily Mail 1st June 2016 reported the decision of District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) Barron at Folkestone Magistrates' Court granting the Kent Police a further 12 months to investigate allegations relating to undeclared, or improperly declared, election expenses in Thanet South during the 2015 General Election. It appears that several other Police Forces are investigating allegations of a similar nature. Here are some media reports of the court's decision:
Isle of Thanet Gazette 1st June 2016
The Guardian 1st June - Judge grants extension to police investigation ....
Daily Mail 1st June - Kent Police given more time to investigate Tory electoral fraud claims
The Telegraph 1st June
5 Essex Court have stated that Dijen Basu QC is to advise the Police in their investigation into the election expenses allegations:-
Limits are placed on election expenses by the Representation of the People Act 1983 section 76 and returns relating to expenses have to be made of all election expenses incurred by or on behalf of a candidate - section 81.
Section 176 of the same Act states:
"A proceeding against a person in respect of any offence under any provision contained in or made under this Act shall be commenced within one year after the offence was committed ...."
Following amendment by the Electoral Administration Act 2006, the section goes on to permit a magistrates' court to extend the time limit if there are (a) exceptional circumstances which justify the granting of the application, and (b) that there has been no undue delay in the investigation of the offence to which the application relates. Extension of time may be up to a maximum of 24 months after the (alleged) offence was committed.
The District Judge concluded that there were "exceptional circumstances" - media reports note that he said "wholly exceptional". He must have also been satisfied that there was no undue delay in the investigation. Unfortunately, it seems that his detailed reasons are not available at the present time though the Isle of Thanet Gazette 1st June 2016 published a quite extensive report of the hearing.
The granting of this time extension will be the only involvement of the Folkestone Magistrates' Court in this matter unless actual prosecutions are commenced in that locality.
The judge also made an order under section 176 relating to retention of documents - sections 176(2C) and 2D.
Corrupt and Illegal Practices:
The Representation of the People Act 1983 section 173 provides that a person already elected to a seat in the House of Commons but who is convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice shall vacate the seat.