Election law specialist, Francis Hoar appears in successful Darren Grimes v The Electoral Commission appeal

19 July 2019

Barrister Francis Hoar appeared for Darren Grimes, a Leave campaigner in the EU referendum, in his successful appeal against a fine imposed by the Electoral Commission. Judgment in favour of Mr Grimes was delivered after a week-long hearing.

HHJ Dight CBE found that the Electoral Commission had reversed the burden of proof, making Mr Grimes prove facts rather than proving them, beyond reasonable doubt, itself.  The court also upheld the statutory interpretation of section 122 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act that Francis had urged in the grounds and skeleton argument to the appeal that he had drafted.

Last year the Electoral Commission found that Mr Grimes had reported expenses incorrectly as ‘individual expenditure’ and alleged them to be expenditure of an organisation, BeLeave. The commission had also claimed he had engaged in unreported ‘common plan’ expenditure with Vote Leave. This would have meant that his expenditure should have been declared by Vote Leave, which would have put them above their lawful spending limit.

His grounds for appeal included a challenge to the construction of paragraph 22 of the EU Referendum Act: does a campaigner ‘incur’ expenditure when it is deemed incurred only by the lead campaigner?  Vote Leave and Mr Grimes denied that they incurred joint expenditure.

His successful appeal has been reported by various media outlets including the BBC: Darren Grimes: Brexit campaigner wins appeal against £20,000 fine,   The Guardian Pro-Brexit activist wins appeal against £20,000 electoral spending fine, The Telegraph: Brexit activist Darren Grimes wins appeal against £20,000 Electoral Commission fine