The courts have quashed a huge fine against working-class Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes, which many Remain campaigners had used to discredit the legitimacy of the Leave vote in 2016.
The Electoral Commission, a nominally impartial watchdog which has been criticised by Brexit supporters for alleged political bias, had hit Grimes — a young student with a part-time job in a shop — with the maximum individual fine of £20,000 after accusations his youth-focused BeLeave group had been used as a conduit for the official Vote Leave campaign to exceed its spending limits.
Following an investigation, the watchdog claimed that Grimes had exceeded BeLeave’s spending limits and wrongly reported them, referring him to the Metropolitan Police “in relation to false declarations of campaign spending” in addition to the fine.
Grimes was adamant that these findings were incorrect and that he had been punished unjustly, however, and crowdfunded an appeal with the help of many small-time Brexit supporters — prompting the Electoral Commission to throw hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxpayer cash at upholding its fine in the courts.
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) July 19, 2019
The watchdog’s efforts have proved unsuccessful, however, with the County Court completely overturning the Electoral Commission’s fine after examining the case more closely.
“I am delighted and relieved that the Court has found me innocent,” the youngster told the Guido Fawkes political blog after the verdict was announced, saying the case had “taken a huge toll on myself and my family”.
“The Electoral Commission’s case was based on an incorrectly ticked box on an application form – something that it had been aware of for over two years and had not been raised in two previous investigations,” he said.
“Yet the Commission still saw fit to issue an excessive fine and to spend almost half a million in taxpayer cash pursuing me through the courts… Today’s verdict is a victory against the Remain Establishment which has done all it can to try and discredit the biggest electoral victory in this country’s history,” he added.
“The powerful vested interests in this country don’t like the idea of the people taking back control… There has been a well- funded, coordinated campaign against me and those that have stood up to the Remain Establishment. Well today they have lost.”
The Electoral Commission will now have to write off its expenditure on the legal battle and pay Grimes for his legal costs, too.
Vote Leave have been handed massive fines today. Meet the Electoral Commission…
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) July 17, 2018