The Police decisions not to proceed with prosecutions are embarrassingly badly reasoned. It seems an obvious attempt at deciding not to prosecute and then looking for ways to justify it.
Firstly the Police have said there was sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in respect of an offence under s221 of the Electoral Act. Let’s look at the key paragraphs in 221(1).
It says that any advertisement which “encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for a party registered under Part 4 of this Act” must be approved in writing by the Party Secretary and contain the name and address of the person approving the ad.
So this means that the Police did find that the pledge cards constitute an advertisement which “encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for a party”
But then they say there was insufficient evidence ob the over-spending to indicate that an offence under s214b of the Electoral Act had been committed. Let’s look at what definition is used in 214B.
An election activity is defined in Section 214B(1) of the Electoral Act 1993, with the key line being in paragraph (c)(i):
“Which encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for the party”
Okay take note. This is almost the exact same definition as for 221 in regard to needing authorisation. So the Police are saying the pledge cards were an election advertisement which needed authorisation, yet somehow they are not an election activity and expense which uses the same definition.
Now carrying on in 221B we have:
In the same section it goes on to define an election expense as “expenses that are incurred by or on behalf of the party in respect of any election activity” and specifically notes “includes the cost of any printing or postage in respect of any election activity, whether or not the expenses in respect of the printing or postage are incurred by or on behalf of the party”
In today’s Herald the Police try to justify this outrageous and inconsistent decision in relation to the over-spending saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute overspending, because there was no evidence it had been intentional.
Now Section 214(3) defines the two offences related to over-spending:
Every person who directly or indirectly pays or knowingly aids or abets any person in paying for or on account of any election expenses any sum in excess of the maximum amount prescribed by this section is,