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Conservative call centre investigation ends with no further action – “no criminal offences identified”

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018.

Police have said an investigation into a call centre used by the Conservative Party to make calls to people in Wrexham and Clwyd South during the General Election has ended with no criminal offences having been identified.

In August last year police said they were conducting a large scale investigation into allegations made by Channel 4 News that the Conservative Party broke the law during the General Election based off undercover video footage from a reporter embedded ‘for a number of weeks’.

A police spokesperson has said this week: “South Wales Police have conducted an investigation into allegations relating to the Representation of the People Act 1983.”

“Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we can confirm that no criminal offences have been identified and therefore no further police action is being taken.”

The Channel 4 News story centred around the use of a call centre in Neath – with Wrexham’s candidate Andrew Atkinson and Clwyd South’s candidate Simon Baynes named alongside several other marginal constituency Conservative candidates on and by Channel 4 News as being beneficiaries of work taking place there.

The call centre in Neath telephoned people in the run up to the election asking various political questions claiming to be an independent market research company – ‘Axe Research’.

The Conservative Party have said it didn’t break the law by using the call centre services, which it said was used to carry out legal direct marketing and market research.

Back in June last year we highlighted the claims made by Channel 4 minutes after they broadcast them, with Mr Atkinson and Mr Baynes both quickly denying any involvement or even awareness of the call centre in question.

Today the then parliamentary candidate, and now Wrexham Councillor, Andrew Atkinson said: “I said at the time that I didn’t know anything about this and that it was questions for the party to answer which it appears they have. I have never done anything wrong and I’m glad this is cleared up.

“I have faced serious personal abuse over this issue and I hope I will now receive full apologies from those involved.”

Simon Baynes has also commented, saying: “When this matter first surfaced last year I said that it was relevant to the Party centrally and not me personally. I am pleased that no criminal offences have been identified and that therefore no further police action is being taken.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also conducted a separate investigation into the claims and issued a brief reprimand to the Conservative Party in October, “We’ve found that two small sections of the written scripts used by those making the calls crossed the line from legitimate market research to unlawful direct marketing. We’ve warned the Conservative Party to get it right next time.”

“As part of our investigation, we studied scripts and call recordings and were satisfied that, in general, the questions reflected a valid market research campaign.”

“But we did have concerns about two sections which we believe fell outside the bounds of market research. These paragraphs referenced both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in relation to policy choices.”

“We’ve warned the party that its campaigns must be rigorously checked for questions that fall outside the bounds of market research.”

“And, while we did not resort to the full force of our regulatory powers in this case, we will continue to keep an eye on all political parties in the run up to future elections and repeat our advice to them that they must comply with data protection and privacy laws when campaigning.”

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