A senior Conservative MP has demanded that Scotland Yard urgently explain why it has not opened a criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns that the Electoral Commission found had broken the law.
Damian Collins, chair of the Commons committee investigating the illegal use of data during the EU referendum, told the Observer he was concernedthat the Metropolitan police had as yet failed to launch a formal investigation into potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups before the 2016 referendum.
His intervention comes five months after the official election regulator ruled that criminal offences had been committed and the force was first handed a dossier containing evidence of the potential crimes.
On Thursday, the website Open Democracy reported that the Met had stalled the launch of a criminal investigation into the pro-Brexit campaigns citing “political sensitivities”.
An email seen by the Observer from Open Democracy shows a Met press officer using the phrase to explain why a formal investigation had not been opened, with the explanation that this would “relate to ANY allegation or referral relating to an election”.
Hours after the report appeared, the Met issued a statement saying it had received more than 900 documents from the Electoral Commission, which are “being assessed in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required”.
Collins, the chair of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said the report was troubling. “If the law was broken they [the police] have a duty to investigate. It makes no sense at all. I have no idea what’s going on. We need a proper official response,” he said.
In May and July this year, the Electoral Commission reported that false declarations, multiple breaches of electoral law and covert campaign overspending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the referendum. Collins added: “What is our law worth if the police won’t act?”