MP cleared after fraud allegations

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A Conservative MP has been cleared following allegations of benefit fraud relating to his mother-in-law.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone was questioned by police in relation to a long-running dispute with Northamptonshire County Council about the funding of residential care for his mother-in-law Dorothy Sweeney, which remains the subject of a civil court case.

Mr Bone had denied any wrongdoing on his constituency website and said the claims had been made "without foundation".

Today the Crown Prosecution Service said it had decided there was "insufficient evidence" to bring criminal charges against Mr Bone and his wife Jennie, after considering a file of evidence passed to them by Northamptonshire Police last November.

It comes after The Times reported in February this year that questions had been asked about concerns that Northamptonshire County Council was not given accurate information about Mrs Sweeney's assets before providing benefits totalling around £100,000. Anyone with assets of more than £23,250 is expected to pay their own care home fees.

In a detailed statement responding to the newspaper's allegations, Mr Bone said his home in Northamptonshire had been raided by police in March 2013, and that the following month he and his wife Jennie were questioned about a complaint raised by the county council.

He said that Mrs Bone had been in dispute with the council since 2009 about the funding of her mother's care needs and that in January 2013 a writ was issued claiming that she owed them money.

Today Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of the CPS Special Crime Division said: "The CPS received a file of evidence from Northamptonshire Police in relation to a 54-year-old woman and her 61-year-old husband on 13 November 2013.

"Having carefully considered all of the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we have decided there is insufficient evidence to charge any criminal offence.

"We were asked to consider whether there was a case for fraud by abuse of position and theft by disposal of assets belonging to the woman's mother. We were also asked to consider whether there was a case of fraud by false representation to Northamptonshire Council in relation to the mother's assets.

"The evidence showed: firstly that the woman's mother considered the suspects' conduct to be acceptable; secondly that the suspects acted openly in declaring the sale of the mother's house to the council; thirdly that no element of dishonesty could be proved. Therefore we have advised the police to take no further action.

"We understand there is ongoing civil litigation. For the avoidance of doubt our advice to police relates solely to possible criminal action."

In a statement today, Mr Bone said: "First, Jennie and I have been humbled by the huge number of phone calls, texts, emails and cards we have received supporting us.

"We are so very appreciative to everyone who has contacted us. It is amazing that we have had so many members of the public, who have taken the time to get in touch, or cross the road to shake my hand; they have not always been of our political persuasion, but they have all expressed their warmest appreciation of what Jennie and I do for the constituency. It has also been interesting to hear of so many people who find themselves in a similar position to us.

"What has been so frustrating about this whole episode is that it has been going on for over a year, without an opportunity for us to clear our names. Recently, we have suffered trial by media. One newspaper in particular has printed information that is incorrect and made allegations that are totally untrue. It seems that certain newspapers feel able to print information that is without foundation, despite being told in advance that that information is factually incorrect.

"Jennie and I have just heard that we are not going to be charged with any criminal offence. This is obviously very good news and a vindication of our stance all along. As we have done nothing wrong and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) only considered the evidence, not newspaper innuendo, we have been proven innocent.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to place on record our thanks to the First Law Partnership and in particular Andy Hopkinson and Derek Johashen - their help and support has been invaluable.

"Please rest assured that I will continue to represent the people of Wellingborough and Rushden in Parliament, to the very best of my ability. Locally, I will be continuing my campaign for Rushden Lakes, for the reopening of Wellingborough Prison and the new urgent care centre at the Isebrook Hospital. Nationally, I will be holding the Government to account and making sure my constituents' interests are represented through the Listening Campaign. I will continue to campaign for lower immigration, an in/out EU referendum and the Government's long term economic plan.

"We are naturally delighted that this nightmare has now come to an end."

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