Darren Grimes acquitted of all Electoral Commission charges
Darren Grimes is the young art student who campaigned on behalf of young people for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, and was relentlessly pursued and fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission for alleged expenses spending offences. Darren instructed Saunders Law in his statutory appeal to the Central London County Court, citing errors of fact, the law and unreasonableness, and after a 5-day hearing, on 19th July 2019 it ordered all the charges to be withdrawn, and the Commission to pay Darren's legal costs.
HH Judge Dight preferred the submissions of Saunders Law and Tim Straker QC on the true facts and the law, to those of the Commission, even though the Commission instructed at goodness knows what expense to the taxpayer, FieldFisher solicitors and Sir James Eadie QC + 2 junior counsel. Darren was generously supported with his legal costs by the general public through CrowdJustice, and directly by well wishers, for which he will be ever grateful.
The allegations centred on substantial donations that were made to the campaigning association BeLeave, which Darren founded and others joined in January 2016 and notified to the Commission in March 2016. BeLeave took its own liberal position on for instance immigration, quite different from other campaigners, and aimed its campaigning at a young demographic through social media and digital advertising. It was so successful that it received £675,315 in donations to spend on getting its message out. The spending was fully accounted for in Beleave's unchallenged, audited return to the Commission.
After the vote, the Commission was sued by the Remain organisation, the Good Law Project, for its conduct of the referendum and, out of left field, decided that BeLeave hadn't actually existed when it notified its intention to campaign! Beleave's spending was allocated to Darren personally who had not made a notification personally. Catch 22. Saunders Law presented to the Commission compelling evidence - contemporaneous invoices, emails, campaign screenshots, even letters to the Commission from BeLeave - of Beleave's existence, but to no avail. This oppressive case was started and may have wasted a million pounds of public money before being put out of its misery.
Judge Dight found in his judgment that:
- Although BeLeave did not have a formal constitution by January 2016, it was clear it was made up of like-minded people who had an agreement to campaign on Brexit in a certain way.
- Believe therefore existed, and properly notified the Commission of its existence and intentions, and reported its spending
- Darren had tried to meet his obligations in filling out the forms, and that his actions were not dishonest or lacking transparency
- The Commission had not understood the law it exists to uphold.
In a statement, shortly after the verdict Darren criticised the watchdog's handling of the case, and said:
"It's vital that more young people are encouraged to get involved in politics and make their voices heard. I just hope that the punitive actions of the Electoral Commission don't put my generation off engaging in our democracy."
Saunders Law is proud of its long history fighting for individual freedoms and fair trials.
Darren's team at Saunders Law was:
Counsel was Tim Straker QC leading Francis Hoar