3rd January 2017
By Peter Tremayne

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, has been interviewed under caution in connection with allegations of false accounting related to the 2015 general election. Ms Hernandez had been the Conservative Party election agent in Torbay at the time.

Detectives questioned Ms Hernandez, by appointment, shortly before Christmas. She was not arrested and strongly denies any wrongdoing.

The investigation is being handled by the West Mercia Constabulary, at the request of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In a brief statement, the IPCC said: “The IPCC is aware Alison Hernandez, the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), has been interviewed over allegations that she failed to be properly declare election expenses when employed as an election agent during the 2015 General Election.

“This was the next stage of the managed investigation undertaken by West Mercia Police under the direction and control of the IPCC.

“On completion of the investigation we will decide whether any matters should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for its consideration.”

The allegations of false accounting stem from the way some general election expenditure was declared as part of a “national” campaign when, critics say, it should have been returned as a “local” cost, in connection with a specific constituency. At the heart of the issue is the use of national campaign “battle bus” which toured the south west ahead of the vote in May 2015.

At least four south west MPs are also caught up in a police investigation. They are North Cornwall MP Scott Mann, Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP Oliver Colville, and Torbay’s MP Kevin Foster.

Ms Hernandez was Mr Foster’s election agent and, in law, responsible for filing an accurate declaration of campaign expenses.

Critics of the Tory tactics say the hotel and accommodation costs of these activists should have been declared locally.

 

In total, more than 20 MPs have been caught up in a row about their election expenses.

Tonight the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner chief executive, Andrew White, issued this statement: “Alison Hernandez informed me that she attended an interview with West Mercia Police on 22 December to discuss allegations relating to election expenses and potential breaches of electoral law on expenses in the Torbay constituency during the 2015 general election campaign.

“In May, I referred these allegations, which occurred when Alison was the election agent for the Conservative candidate Kevin Foster, to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

“On completion of West Mercia’s investigation a report will be presented to the IPCC and a decision will be made whether the case should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

“This investigation is one of a number of similar investigations being undertaken across the country.

“I will issue further updates as and when any relevant information, that I am allowed to disclose by the relevant bodies, becomes available.”

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