Brexit activist Darren Grimes crowdfunding to fight 'biased' Electoral Commission ruling

Brexit activist Darren Grimes crowdfunding to fight 'biased' Electoral Commission fine

Darren Grimes in his crowdfunding video. Image: Darren Grimes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Brexit activist fined for breaching spending rules during the EU referendum campaign is crowdfunding to fight the Electoral Commission's verdict.

Darren Grimes insisted he was "completely innocent" of making false declarations in relation to a £680,000 donation his youth group, BeLeave, received from the main Vote Leave campaign.

He accused the Electoral Commission being "biased" against supporters of EU withdrawal.

But the commission insisted its investigation was "thorough and fair" and rejected the allegation of political bias, pointing out that it had carried out inquiries into campaigners on both sides of the referendum battle.

His crowdfunding campaign currently stands at £39,000 - more than the £20,000 fine he was served with.

Referred to police

Mr Grimes, 24, was referred to the Metropolitan Police after the commission found last week that the massive donation should have been declared as part of Vote Leave's spending, because the two organisations were working jointly.

The commission found that the cash was spent with data firm Aggregate IQ, which had been working for Vote Leave on targeting online ads, in a "common plan" between the official campaign and Mr Grimes's group.

If declared, the sum would have taken Vote Leave - fronted by leading politicians including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - over its £7 million spending limit.

Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and its official David Halsall was also referred to police.

“[They’ve done] this while having consistently refused to investigate the Remain campaign,” said Mr Grimes in a video on his Crowdjustice campaign page.

“Former cabinet minister Priti Patel wrote to the Electoral Commission saying that she believed there was clear reason to believe that Britain Stronger in Europe avoided breaching its spending limits by channelling funds through smaller Remain campaigns, which were set up less than a month before the referendum vote.”

Commission found ‘no reasonable grounds’ to suspect Remain campaigns of ‘offences’

The Commission responded to Patel’s letter in January this year saying it “has determined that it does not have reasonable grounds to suspect Britain Stronger in Europe committed these offences”.

“The experience me and my family have had to go through these past two years has proved to me that no matter what piece of evidence I give to the commission, no matter how much I voluntarily contribute to their investigation, the Commission will always find against Leave campaigners,” continued Mr Grimes.

“It’s coming increasingly clear that the Commission regrets the result of the referendum.”

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: "The laws we enforce were put in place by Parliament to provide voters with transparency and confidence in the system. We conducted a thorough and fair investigation and found that the law had been broken and have applied our sanctions accordingly.

"We open investigations where the evidence justifies it, irrespective of the political views of the party or campaigner concerned. Between June 2016 and April 2018 we have published details of 38 investigations arising from the EU referendum where offences were found. These include campaigners for both Remain and Leave outcomes.