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DUP fined over Northern Ireland campaign spending

2 min read

The DUP have been fined £4,000 for filing an ‘inaccurate’ spending return relating to the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

The party, who are currently in talks to prop up a Conservative minority government, declared payments of just under £50,000 which should not have been included.

The independent Commission say they are satisfied that the issue was a result of “duplication”, as the candidates who were supposed to report the figure also did so.

Two payments of just under £400 which should have been reported were not, with the party since informing the Commission that it has reviewed its procedures to prevent a recurrence of these errors.

The fine comes as talks continue between the Northern Ireland parties and the UK and Irish governments to restart devolution, after a break down in January over a heating scandal.

The Commission has the power to impose fines of up to £20,000 if it concludes a party or group has breached the rules.

A spokesman for the DUP said: “The Electoral Commission has made clear that this was a case of “duplication”.

“The expenditure in question was mistakenly declared twice – once in the party’s central campaign return and then again in the candidates’ individual spending returns.

“This error was corrected in an amended campaign expenditure return.

“We regret that these administrative errors led to our election spend being recorded as higher than should have been the case. 

“The Party has put in place new processes to guard against this in future.

“The fine has been paid in full. The Commission has confirmed this matter is now closed.”

Elsewhere, pro-Brexit campaigner and Butlin's owner Peter Harris was fined £12,000, the most severe punishment issued in relation to the EU referendum.

The Commission found Mr Harris, who spent a total of £421,432.64 during the campaign, failed to deliver his spending return and audit report on time – an offence when the campaigner has spent more than £250,000.

After being advised of the Commission’s investigation, Mr Harris reported the spending and supplied an audit report.

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