EAST Hampshire’s former MP has been paid substantial damages by the Crown Prosecution Service after he was wrongly accused of breaking election law.
Police have also apologised to Michael Mates and confirmed that he was not guilty of any offence during his attempt to become Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in 2012. He served as the East Hampshire MP for 36 years.
It was claimed that Mr Mates, who has just celebrated his 80th birthday, had broken the rules by using a flat in Winchester as his address so that he could take part in the contest.
After an investigation by police, the CPS said that it would not be in the public interest to launch a prosecution even though a conviction was ‘a realistic possibility.’
However, it has now said its comments were wrong and that Mr Mates, who had offered to go to court to clear his name, was innocent.
In a statement, it said: ‘In October 2013, the CPS considered allegations that Michael Mates, a candidate in the election for Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, had committed an offence under section 21 of The Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2012. The CPS decided at that time that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction but that no charges should be brought as a prosecution would not be in the public interest. The CPS made a statement in October 2013, explaining its decision not to prosecute Mr Mates.
‘Following a complaint made by Mr Mates, the CPS carried out a review of this decision and it has concluded that it had been wrong to determine that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
‘The CPS has apologised to Mr Mates for any distress and embarrassment that its wrong decision and public statement in October 2013 caused. The CPS of course accepts that Mr Mates committed no offence.’
Hampshire’s chief constable Andy Marsh has also apologised.
He said: ‘If the investigation has caused Mr Mates professional or personal embarrassment or other personal difficulties then this clearly was not the intention of the police and, for that, I apologise.
‘Furthermore, I acknowledge and accept the statement of the CPS that Mr Mates is innocent of any offence.’
Mr Mates said: ‘What has been a nightmare for my wife and myself for more than 18 months is now over.
‘We had to endure the ordeal of interviews under criminal caution because of allegations that were made with malice.
‘We have endured endless delays while the various authorities kept us completely in the dark as to what was going on. I have been through six or seven appeal processes, all of which dismissed my assertions that I had done nothing wrong.
‘It was only when, at my own expense, I instructed lawyers to challenge the Crown Prosecution Service that they caved in and admitted that they had been wrong all along.
‘I have been able finally to achieve a just outcome for myself only because of my knowledge and experience of the system.
‘I have grave doubts that an ordinary citizen who has not had such a background would have been able successfully to challenge wrongdoing by the authorities without access to potentially expensive litigation.’
He added: ‘This is not the way our justice system should work. I shall endeavour to ensure that lessons are learned from what has been, for us, a most upsetting experience.’