Electoral Commission fine 'ruined my early 20s', says BeLeave campaigner before court appeal

PUBLISHED: 15:26 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 15 July 2019

Darren Grimes arrives at the Mayor's and City of London Court. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

Darren Grimes arrives at the Mayor's and City of London Court. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The founder of Brexiteer campaign group BeLeave has told supporters that the Electoral Commission "completely ruined my early 20s" ahead of his appeal against the £20,000 fine for breaking election rules.

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Darren Grimes is appealing against a fine given in July 2018 for making false declarations arround joint working with the official Vote Leave campaign.

The undeclared £675,000 Grimes was given by Vote Leave was spent on a data analytics firm in what the elections watchdog called a "common plan", allowing the official campaign to exceed its spending limits by nearly half a million pounds.

MORE: Vote Leave 'broke election spending rules'

Grimes told the court that the finding had involved "errors of fact, the law and unreasonableness" and said he was "completely innocent".

He has crowdfunded £93,956 online for the appeal at the Mayor's and City of London court, which is expected to last around 10 days.

Tim Straker QC, representing Grimes, told Judge Marc Dight the Electoral Commission made "a sequence of errors", including some related to record-keeping, saying that Grimes had behaved transparently and that "it cannot conceivably right" that he be penalised.

Straker added said the regulator had "played a part in vilifying" Grimes.

In a video message to his supporters ahead of the court appearance, Grimes said the Electoral Commission "completely ruined my early 20s" and said he faced bankruptcy or the prospect of his family selling their home if the decision goes against him.

Grimes' appeal attempt comes after Vote Leave withdrew its own appeal against the £61,000 fine it was handed in March.

MORE: Vote Leave ordered to pay more than triple after failed Electoral Commission legal challenge

The failed appeal resulted in Vote Leave having to pay not only the original fine, but an additional £180,000 towards the Electoral Commission's legal costs.

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