“The investigation into Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez and election spending will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has confirmed it intends to pass the file to the CPS after an investigation by West Mercia Police.
The CPS will consider whether any charges should be brought along with the cases of other MPs connected to spending on an election “battle bus” said to have exceeded the limit.
Andrew White, chief executive for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon & Cornwall, said the commissioner would not step down even if charges follow.
“This referral does not prevent the commissioner from holding the position of PCC,” he added. “If a charge is brought this remains the case – it would not prevent her from remaining in office.” To ensure absolute independence, in circumstances such as these, there is a clear legal process to be followed,” he said.
West Mercia police carried out the investigation into Ms Hernandez in her position as election agent to Torbay MP Kevin Foster in 2015, rather than Devon and Cornwall, to avoid any suggestion of bias.
The force is also considering whether to refer a second, linked investigation into spending locally to the CPS. A decision on this is expected soon and could see the commissioner face two charges in court.
“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,” Mr White added. “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. “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.”