Pro-cannabis party Cista (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol) has been fined more than £23,000 by the electoral commission for failing to send its political finances paperwork. The party is registered separately in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol Northern Ireland was fined £13,000 for failing to deliver two quarterly donations reports and its spending return for the Northern Ireland Assembly election in May 2016, the late delivery of one loans report, one statement of accounts and a failure to maintain adequate accounting records. It has since parted ways and changed its name to Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance.
Barry Brown assistant party leader in Northern Ireland said it was "beyond their control" with regard to the fine.
While Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol Great Britain has been fined £10,000 for the late delivery of two quarterly donations reports and one statement of accounts, as well as a failure to maintain adequate accounting records.
The electoral commission said the treasurer for the party is responsible for ensuring that the reporting requirements for both the Great Britain and Northern Ireland parties are met and is liable for the fines that the Commission has imposed. Previously, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol parties have been fined a combined total of £18,000 by the Electoral Commission - which have all been paid. The party was removed from the register of political parties on November 3 2016 after it did not complete an annual registration confirmation, a requirement that all parties must fulfil in order to remain on the register of political parties.
Electoral Commission Director of Party Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, Bob Posner said:"Political parties have a legal responsibility to submit their financial returns, so that voters know the sources and levels of their funding.
"We had significant concerns about this party’s willingness to comply with the rules and the loss of transparency as a result of its unprecedented history of non-compliance. The fines issued in this case reflect the serious impact that this can have on voter confidence.”
CISTA Great Britain have been contacted for a response.