Former Northampton MP David Mackintosh found NOT GUILTY of withholding information about political donations
The former MP has lost his political career over the allegations
*This post was updated with a statement from David Mackintosh and Northamptonshire Police at 3.30pm on the day of publication.
By Sarah Ward
A jury has found former Northampton MP David Mackintosh and his businessman friend Howard Grossman innocent of accusations they withheld information about donations to his election campaign.
After just under 18 hours of deliberations, the jury at Warwick Crown Court delivered a majority verdict today finding that Mackintosh had not known £39,000 of cash given to his election campaign in 2014 had come from Sixfields businessman Howard Grossman.
Grossman, 61, of Greenacres, Bushey, Middlesex, who had admitted providing the cash, but not withholding information, was also found innocent of the two counts against him prosecuted under the political parties, elections and referendum act.
Mackintosh, 44, of Station Court, Northampton has lost his political career over the allegations, deciding in 2017 not to attempt re-election after just two years in parliament, after his own local Tory party turned against him. He told the jury that since the day he had been elected in May 2015 the local party was ‘out to get him’ as he had not been the preferred candidate of many.
The prosecution had not provided any evidence that former Northampton Borough Council leader Mackintosh had known the money - which was donated to his campaign by friends or associates of Grossman over a five month period between April and September 2014 - had come from his friend, who was then involved in the development of a new stand at Northampton Town Football Club.
The prosecution had relied on evidence of emails between Mackintosh and some of the donors - who all lived outside of Northants - in which he had become involved in helping with information, or had passed on their details to the office, but in none of the emails was it clear that Mackintosh knew the money was being given to them by Grossman to pass on.
Mackintosh took to the witness stand in the trial and repeatedly denied throughout that he had any idea that Grossman, whom he had become friendly due to the Sixfields project, was the real source of the funds and continually batted off suggestions that he had had a conversation with Grossman about it.
As his barrister Cairns Nelson KC had told the jury there was ‘no smoking gun’ and told the jury it was not enough to convict Mackintosh on the assumption that he ‘should have known’ and had told them not to judge him as a ‘grabby, Tory MP’.
Grossman, who did not give evidence in court, had said in his pre-prepared statement made to police when he was first questioned, that he had been told to donate the cash through third parties by Suresh Patel, who was chairman of the Northampton South Conservative Association and also Mackintosh’s election agent. When Mr Patel took to the stand for the prosecution he denied a conversation ever took place and said he did not meet Mackintosh until after the donations were made.
After he walked from the court David Mackintosh released a media statement which said:
“Eight years ago false allegations were made against me but finally today justice has been served and I have cleared my name.
“It has been a difficult time for my family, my friends and for me but now a new chapter begins.
“In light of today’s verdict I’m sure that some members of the Conservative Party in Northampton will be searching their souls.
“I would like to thank my solicitor Riad Ahmed and my barristers, Cairns Nelson KC and James McCrindell, for their work and support before and during the five week trial, and for believing in me.
“Finally I thank my Dad, my brother and my whole family and friends for their love and guidance throughout this whole ordeal.”
The trial was the first carried out under the political parties, elections and referendum act 2000 (PPREA), and half way through - in a very unusual move - the judge allowed the crown prosecution to change the original charges on which the pair had been indicted and instead prosecute under another section of the act. The jury was instructed to find the pair not guilty of an offence stipulated under section 54 of PPREPA (which related to permissible donors) and they were then re-arraigned on the new charges under section 61 of the law (offences concerned with evasion of restrictions on donations). At 11am today the judge had called the jury back into the court to tell them she would accept a majority verdict.
The case against Mackintosh built by the police and crown prosecution had taken several years to bring to court. There will now be questions about why it got so far when evidence that Mackintosh was involved in the donations cover up, was not there.
After the review a spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said:
"This was an important test case as it was the first time these offences have been prosecuted and we respect the jury's decision after five days of deliberation.
"While David Mackintosh and Howard Grossman were acquitted, it should be remembered that five individuals have pleaded guilty to facilitating disguised payments with two awaiting sentence.
"The other three defendants received sentences ranging from a £6,000 fine to suspended prison sentences."