Election 2015

Reality Check: Is giving voters sausage rolls illegal?

Sausage rolls Image copyright Thinkstock

The humble sausage roll has potentially landed a UKIP candidate in hot water as he is to be questioned by police over allegations he has tried to influence voters by giving away the pastries at a party event. Kim Rose, standing in Southampton Itchen, also invited snooker player Jimmy White to the event.

But is giving voters sausage rolls illegal?

"Treating" electors to encourage them to vote for a particular candidate or political party has been illegal since the nineteenth century.

According to the Electoral Commission, the body that regulates election spending in the UK: "A person is guilty of treating if either before, during or after an election they directly or indirectly give or provide any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting."

Ordinary hospitality is perfectly permissible; to be guilty of treating requires "corrupt intent".

Treating just one elector can get you into trouble - you don't need to have treated a large group of people to fall foul of the rules.

Those handing out the goodies aren't the only ones guilty of wrongdoing. The legislation states that the recipients of any treats will also be deemed guilty of treating.

"An MP was unseated in 1911 for giving coal to the poor and sweets to schoolchildren in celebration of his twenty-fifth year in Parliament," says a research paper by the Law Commission.

According to a recent report by the Electoral Commission, 73 cases of alleged electoral fraud relating to voting offences were recorded by police in 2014. Of these four cases - 5% - related to allegations of "treating".

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