High Court finds Electoral Commission 'got law wrong'

The High Court has today ruled that the Electoral Commission misinterpreted the law when advising Vote Leave during the referendum.

Darren Grimes was paid £625,000 by Vote Leave so as not to go over the legal spending limit however, since the referendum, the Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave and Mr Grimes also referring him to the police.

Both Vote Leave and Darren Grimes reject any wrongdoing.

In his judgment at the High Court, Lord Justice Leggatt ruled that the Electoral Commission had “misinterpreted the definition of ‘referendum expenses'” as defined by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act (PPERA).

He added: “The source of its error is a mistaken assumption that an individual or body which makes a donation to a permitted participant cannot thereby incur referendum expenses.

“As a result of this error, the Electoral Commission has interpreted the definition in a way that is inconsistent with both the language and the purpose of the legislation.”

The Electoral Commission has been on a crusade to vilify Leave campaigners since the referendum result in 2016 with many organisations having to fight back at considerable expense. On BBC Politics Live this afternoon, Westmonster’s Steven Edginton told the story of David Banks, the Veterans for Britain chief who had to fork out over £15,000 in legal costs to clear his name after the Electoral Commission found one indiscretion in the campaign’s spending returns.

It is hard to justify the existence of an elections regulator that does not itself advise correct guidance to campaigns, let alone then harasses said campaigners when they follow through on the Commission’s own advice.