Vote Leave donations should have been treated as expenses, High Court told

PUBLISHED: 17:01 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 19 June 2018

Vote Leave campaigners stand by the Vote Leave campaign bus in Truro, Cornwall

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Donations of £725,000 made by the official Leave campaign in the run-up to the EU referendum should have been treated as expenses, senior judges have heard.

The Good Law Project (GLP) is bringing a High Court challenge against the Electoral Commission, arguing the commission should have taken action over spending by Vote Leave Ltd ahead of the historic vote in 2016.

During a hearing in London today, the court was told Vote Leave gave £625,000 to fashion student Darren Grimes and donated £100,000 to an organisation called Veterans for Britain.

The campaign's final payment to Mr Grimes was made just two days before the poll on June 23.

GLP argues the Electoral Commission should have concluded that the payments to Mr Grimes and Veterans for Britain were referendum expenses, in which case they put Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit.

Lawyers for GLP said the money was used to pay for the services of Canadian data and marketing firm AggregateIQ.

Jessica Simor QC told the court: "The case raises important questions as to how Parliament intended to control referendum spending by different groups on the same side of a referendum campaign."

GLP wants the court to quash the Electoral Commission's decision not to take further action over the spending.

Lawyers for the Commission contend the payments to Mr Grimes were donations for his own referendum expenses and therefore not expenses incurred by Vote Leave.

An investigation into Vote Leave's spending was launched by the Electoral Commission in November last year and its findings are due to be made public in July.

Richard Gordon QC argued the relief sought by GLP is academic in light of the investigation the commission has now conducted.

Mr Justice Leggatt and Mr Justice Holgate reserved their ruling to a later date.

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