Update on investigation into election expenses
The investigation into the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, which relates to spending at the 2015 General Election, will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, has confirmed it intends to pass the file to the CPS, after an investigation by West Mercia Police. It is for the CPS to consider whether any charges should be brought. This action to refer is in line with that taken by a number of police forces to refer similar cases across the country.
“I have been informed that Ms Hernandez’s case will be referred to the CPS for its consideration. I want to take the opportunity to clarify a number of issues about this process to avoid any confusion,” said Andrew White, chief executive for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“To ensure absolute independence, in circumstances such as these, there is a clear legal process to be followed. West Mercia police carried out the investigation and not Devon and Cornwall to avoid any suggestion of bias.”
“Although the case is being referred to the CPS, at this time, no decision has been made about whether charges will be laid against Ms Hernandez. There is no presumption that their consideration will lead to a charge and even if the CPS decide to charge it may be many months before any case comes to court.
Mr White also clarified how the development affects Ms Hernandez’ position as PCC.
“This referral does not prevent the commissioner from holding the position of PCC. If a charge is brought this remains the case – it would not prevent her from remaining in office,” he said.
“I am certain that some will see this as a significant stage in the investigation but in British justice an individual is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
“There is no charge, no trial and no verdict, and neither is there any impediment to the commissioner carrying out her duties as an elected representative of the people of Devon and Cornwall.”
Ms Hernandez recently published her first Police and Crime Plan and budget following Devon and Cornwall’s biggest ever public consultation into policing.
“In the last year, the Commissioner has published a comprehensive plan setting out her plans for the future of policing and community safety. She has made additional funds available to the Chief Constable to allow him to recruit an additional 100 front line police officers and recently announced a new initiative that will change the way first time offenders are treated by the criminal justice system.
“If you consider her achievements since being elected to office I believe it confirms my view that the commissioner is fully meeting her obligations to the people of Devon and Cornwall,” said Mr White.
“They should feel assured that the good work of the commissioner and her team is proceeding regardless.”