Here’s what section 146(1) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (the “Act”) provides:
The Commission may by notice require the relevant person in the case of any supervised organisation…—
(a) to produce, for inspection by the Commission or a person authorised by the Commission, any such books, documents or other records relating to the income and expenditure of the organisation or individual as the Commission may reasonably require for the purposes of the carrying out by them of their functions…
From this Electoral Commission statement it appears that the Commission did make such a request:
The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation.
Subsection 146(5) provides:
A person commits an offence if he fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any requirement imposed under this section.
From the Electoral Commission statement it appears that the relevant person failed to comply with the request.
However, the Party has…. provided… no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply.
Unless there is a “reasonable excuse” – and the Electoral Commission statement mentions none – the “relevant person” will already have committed an offence.
It makes no difference to the analysis if the documents are subsequently handed over – because there has already been a failure to comply with the request.
The “relevant person” is defined by section 146(9) thus
“relevant person”, in relation to a supervised organisation…, means… in the case of an organisation, any person who is or has been the treasurer or another officer of the organisation…
The Conservative Party website gives as the Treasurer of the Conservative Party Lord Lupton.
And by Schedule 20 of the Act a failure to comply with section 146(5) is punishable on summary conviction at level 5. Although my specialism lies elsewhere I understand the consequence to be that a fine of unlimited amount may be imposed: see here, here and here.
You may wonder why the Electoral Commission Statement makes no mention of this commission of a criminal offence. But no matter. Tomorrow I shall refer the matter to the Police.Follow @jolyonmaugham
Postscript: 13 May 2016.
It may be that a different, or further, offence has been committed under Schedule 19B paragraph 13 of the Act. I have, today, reported both prospective offences to the Metropolitan Police who will take a statement from me on Monday.