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FORMER Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas did offer access to Prime Minister David Cameron and other party leaders for cash, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Lord Justice Jackson slammed Mr Cruddas’s offer to would-be donors as “unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong.”
Mr Cruddas was refused the right to appeal to the Supreme Court and now has until the end of the month to repay £130,000 he received in compensation from the Sunday Times.
The last twist in the legal battle comes three years after he was caught in a sting by reporters posing as prospective donors.
He told the undercover journalists that they could meet top Tories who influence party policy in exchange for a donation of between £100,000 and £250,000.
Mr Cruddas resigned his Tory post on the day the story was revealed but successfully sued the Sunday Times for libel in July 2013.
But the sum was sensationally slashed yesterday by Lord Justice Jackson, who ruled that Mr Cruddas was corruptly offering access for cash.
“Mr Cruddas was effectively saying to the journalists that if they donated large sums to the Conservative Party, they would have an opportunity to influence government policy and to gain unfair commercial advantage through confidential meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers,” said the judge as he delivered the verdict.
“That was unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong.”
He pointed out that Mr Cruddas’s actions were not sanctioned by Mr Cameron or the Conservative Party.
But Labour challenged the Tories to clean up their act after yesterday’s hearing.
“It is important that the Conservative Party responds fully to say how it will ensure this behaviour is not repeated,” said Labour MP Ian Mearns.
“We know the Tory campaign coffers are awash with money from donations in their attempts to buy this election, so it is essential there are rigorous procedures to ensure full compliance with the rules at all times.”
A statement by the Sunday Times on behalf of investigative journalists Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake said they had been “completely vindicated.”
Mr Cruddas will keep £50,000 in compensation after the judge upheld two other allegations that he planned to breach electoral law in relation to foreign donations.
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