Electoral Commission Challenge

The Good Law Project has today written to the Electoral Commission demanding it reopens its investigation into whether Vote Leave was guilty of criminal conduct in relation to referendum overspending.

The letter is the formal precursor to judicial review proceedings in the High Court. Absent immediate action by the Electoral Commission the Good Law Project will file proceedings in the High Court, likely within a fortnight.

The demands centre on substantial last-minute spending by Vote Leave in the days before the Referendum vote. Vote Leave paid some £625,000 of bills alleged to have been run up by a Brighton fashion student, Darren Grimes. Those bills were incurred with a then-obscure Canadian firm based above an opticians’ shop in Victoria, British Columbia. Vote Leave admits on its own spending return to incurring a further £3m of expenditure with that same firm, Aggregate IQ.

Vote Leave and Darren Grimes (pictured here in a now-deleted tweet wearing a Vote Leave TV shirt at a Vote Leave photoshoot with Vote Leave Co-Convenor Michael Gove) both made returns to the Electoral Commission on the footing that the manner in which Darren Grimes spent £625,000 was completely independent of Vote Leave. Had the spending in reality been that of Vote Leave, or been incurred pursuant to a common plan of Mr Grimes and Vote Leave, the latter would have committed a criminal offence.

The Electoral Commission – after a short, formal investigation – declared there were no reasonable grounds for suspecting Darren Grimes’ spending with Aggregate IQ shared a common plan with Vote Leave.

Good Law Project founder, Jo Maugham QC said:

“We have spending limits to stop our democracy being captured by those with limitless sums to spend. The Electoral Commission’s role is to police those spending limits – to protect our democracy. If it doesn’t do its job our democracy can’t function.

“These facts raise obvious and serious questions about the conduct of the Electoral Commission and the Referendum. Was our watchdog asleep on the job?”

Notes:

  1. The Good Law Project Limited is a not for profit. It was founded by Jo Maugham QC and uses the law to deliver a better society.
  2. The legal team will be Jessica Simor QC of Matrix Chambers; she will be lead Tom Cleaver of Blackstone Chambers. They will be instructed by Polly Glynn of Deighton Pierce Glynn.
  3. The crowdfunding page can be seen here https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/did-vote-leave-break-spending-limits.

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