Help me fight the biased Electoral Commission

by Darren Grimes

Help me fight the biased Electoral Commission

by Darren Grimes
Darren Grimes
Case Owner
Hi, I’m Darren Grimes. The 24-year-old Leave activist who the Electoral Commission fined £20,000 and accused of criminal conduct. I am here today to ask you for help to fight the Commission’s verdict.
on 25th July 2018
pledged of £100,000 stretch target from 2980 pledges
Darren Grimes
Case Owner
Hi, I’m Darren Grimes. The 24-year-old Leave activist who the Electoral Commission fined £20,000 and accused of criminal conduct. I am here today to ask you for help to fight the Commission’s verdict.

Latest: Aug. 9, 2019

It’s over!

After keeping everyone guessing for weeks about whether they were going to blow even more taxpayers’ money on trying to appeal against their comprehensive defeat in the Darren Grimes case, the …

Read more

Hi, I’m Darren Grimes.

You might also know me as the 22-year-old who the Electoral Commission recently fined £20,000 and accused of criminal conduct - principally because I ticked the wrong box on a form 2 years ago.

As you may be aware, I am just the latest in a long line of Leave campaigners that the Commission have issued trumped up charges against. I am raising funds to mount my legal defence and I need your support - please contribute what you can and share this page on Twitter and Facebook.  

What is the case? 

I want to fight the Commission’s verdict for two reasons. One, I think their judgment against me is wrong in both fact and law. Two, I think I need to highlight the Commission’s poor conduct to ensure that our public bodies act in a proper way - and don’t abuse their position.

That's why I'm launching this legal action to challenge their decision and refute their accusation of criminal misconduct. 

Everything I have seen and been through in the last two years has convinced me that no amount of evidence, no amount of facts will dissuade the Commission from finding me and other Leave campaigners guilty.

Firstly, the Electoral Commission’s judgement is simply wrong and based on inaccurate assertions and a misunderstanding of the law. As an example, they clearly have the wrong understanding of the basic law on how unincorporated associations are set up and work.

An unincorporated association is an organisation set up by two or more people with a common purpose; there is no requirement for a written agreement. Yet the Commission refuse to accept that BeLeave was an unincorporated association prior to May 2016, despite accepted evidence that online content was being produced by BeLeave, funding was being secured and a group of us were all working towards the same aims.

In other words, their judgement is based on a deeply flawed reading of the law.

There is no evidence because I am completely innocent - but they don’t care. 

My lawyers agree with this and want to fight the case. They also want to challenge the way I was misled when I applied for BeLeave to be registered for the referendum, and the untrue suggestion that it was just Vote Leave’s plaything. BeLeave’s campaign was original and focussed on young people who are not actively represented in UK politics.

It is very worrying that a Government body is making such fundamental errors in such a high profile case. I need your help to make sure that these errors are exposed, and to cast light on a serious failing by a public body. I believe that the facts - if brought to the attention of a judge - will exonerate me, not brand me as a criminal.

I am not a rich person. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to pay the maximum fine.

But this isn't just about me

Most importantly, I don’t want to let the Commission get away with this. 

I believe the Commission’s conduct has been appalling. We depend on organisations like the Commission to safeguard our democracy. How long before they start going after parties their senior figures dislike? How long until candidates they have a grudge against find themselves unfairly penalised?

They have reversed their previous decisions with no justifiable grounds. They have breached an undertaking to my solicitor. They have based their judgment on information that they have refused to disclose to me, so I cannot see the evidence that renders me ‘guilty’. They have also taken evidence from a witness (whose truthfulness and reliability has been constantly challenged) in private, not allowing me the chance to test his assertions made against me.

On top of all this, the Commission has also accepted that even on their case there are substantial matters in mitigation but they have ignored them when deciding their sanction and fined me the maximum possible.

Public bodies shouldn’t act like this. I want to push back against this sort of conduct as a matter of principle - no judicial body or quasi-judicial body should conduct itself like this.

According to expert legal analysis, the Commission are wrong in law, wrong in fact and have been wholly unreasonable. I am very confident that the Appeal Court will overturn their decision - and in doing so will force the Commission to reconsider the way it conducts itself. But I need your help to do it.

Please help me see off these unfair accusations, and highlight the Commission’s failings.

Thank you. 

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Update 19

Darren Grimes

Aug. 9, 2019

It’s over!

After keeping everyone guessing for weeks about whether they were going to blow even more taxpayers’ money on trying to appeal against their comprehensive defeat in the Darren Grimes case, the Electoral Commission have finally decided that they will not be appealing. Today was the deadline for them to appeal, they have confirmed to Guido that they aren’t.

It finally draws a line under three years of their vindictive pursuit of one young Brexit campaigner, with the Electoral Commission resorting to trying to string Grimes up on a technicality after failing to find anything substantive over the course of multiple investigations. Without the generous support of Guido readers, Brexit hero Darren would never have been to challenge their perversion of justice in the first place. Grimes can now rest easy, meanwhile the pressure on the Electoral Commission is continuing to mount

Update 18

Darren Grimes

July 19, 2019

I won! Thank you!

See my statement here.

Update 17

Darren Grimes

July 9, 2019

Next week it’s finally here...

Whatever the outcome next week. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Click here to watch a video update.

Update 16

Darren Grimes

May 15, 2019

Why I'm fighting the smears against Brexit and my name

I wrote for Unredacted on why I am, three years on from our vote for Brexit, risking bankruptcy to clear the smears against our vote and my name 👇🏼

Update 15

Darren Grimes

May 8, 2019


Fresh from the revelation that the Electoral Commission have blown almost half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money trying to fight Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes over a £20,000 fine for a minor administrative error, Guido has learned that they have claimed a staggering £36,000 in printing costs alone. What have they been printing on – gold-edged vellum?

Assuming they did just use normal office paper, at a conservative estimate of 5p per sheet that adds up to a gobsmacking 720,000 sheets of paper. That’s almost 100 trees that have been cut down in their vindictive pursuit of a single 25-year old Brexit campaigner…

Update 14

Darren Grimes

May 4, 2019

Sunday Telegraph: Electoral Commission's £436,000 bill fighting Darren Grimes

Coverage of my case against the Electoral Commission, funded by all of you, in the Sunday Telegraph:

The elections watchdog is spending more than £400,000 defending its decision to fine a pro-Brexit campaigner £20,000. 

Court papers reveal Electoral Commission estimates that the cost of resisting appeals by Darren Grimes will amount to £436,000, after the body recruited James Eadie QC, the Government's most senior advocate, to argue its case in court.

The watchdog fined Mr Grimes, the founder of the BeLeave campaign group, last year after concluding that he had wrongly reported £620,000 of spending on the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

Mr Grimes insists he is "completely innocent" and  that he is being pursued simply for "ticking the wrong box".

He is appealing against the Electoral Commission's decision, using £86,695 raised from supporters online. The commission has been accused of anti-Brexit bias, which it denies.

In court papers filed on behalf of the commission, the watchdog's solicitor said: "In my first statement I estimated that the Commission's total costs (past and future) up to the end of these statutory appeals would be approximately £325,000 ... I now believe that a more accurate estimate is approximately £436,000 + VAT."

Mr Grimes said: "Sadly, this is just the latest attempt of the Commission going to extraordinary lengths to justify its appalling conduct by trying to prove that I broke the law.

"This is just the latest evidence that the Electoral Commission is not fit for purpose: over the last three years, it has imposed judgements and extraordinarily disproportionate fines, has refused to take evidence or hear from the people it’s passing judgement on, sought to withhold information from the courts, and has now wracked up hundreds of thousands to justify the fact that it fined me £20,000 for ticking the wrong box on a form."

In March 2016 Mr Grimes ticked a box on an Electoral Commission form which declared that he was registering with the body as an individual rather than on behalf of an organisation, BeLeave, to take part in the referendum campaign.

He had separately stated "BeLeave" under "campaigner name". As a registered individual Mr Grimes was able to spend up to £700,000 on the referendum campaign.

The commission states that BeLeave only became eligible to register as a campaign group a month before the referendum was held, meaning it would only have been allowed to spend up to £10,000 until that point. Mr Grimes insists the error was an innocent mistake.  

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: “Parliament put rules in place to ensure public confidence in elections and referendums. Darren Grimes and Vote Leave broke those rules, each committing multiple offences. Mr Grimes has decided to appeal our findings. As a public body, while defending that appeal we are mindful of the need to take a reasonable and prudent approach in relation to the costs we have needed to incur.”  

Update 13

Darren Grimes

March 31, 2019

Help me fight the Remain Establishment! 🇬🇧✊

I’m asking you for your help to ensure that I can continue to fight for the 17.4 million.

To fight for the outcome of the biggest act of democracy our country has ever seen.

Click here to watch my latest video and case update.

Update 12

Darren Grimes

Feb. 16, 2019

The full set of High Court submissions – paid for by you!

On my website you can find my submissions to the court and some video content too. I couldn't have even got to court without your help and donations – hopefully, I'll raise enough to see this through to the end, thank you.

When I was a student I ran a youth campaign in the 2016 referendum, I believe passionately in Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. I’m now appealing against the imposition of a £20,000 civil sanction by the Electoral Commission, after three investigations over three years, for alleged breaches of election law, I’m challenging the Commission’s findings, and in my Counsel’s detailed submissions on Appeal, I reject the Commission's findings as wrong in law, perverse, that were made after a deeply unfair process.

The Commission investigated me after twice finding that I had not broken the law, but did not disclose key evidence to me, nor allow me an adequate opportunity to challenge evidence on which they say they rely. Worse still, they only opened a third investigation after political pressure from wealthy Remain campaigners. In my Appeal, the Court will hear that the Commission did not even understand the law on Unincorporated Associations on which it relied to find me guilty.

On Friday 14th September 2018, the High Court handed down judgment in a case in which the Good Law Project challenged the Commission’s handling of the 2016 Brexit referendum. The narrow issue was whether the designated lead campaigner for the Leave outcome, Vote Leave Ltd, should have declared payments it made to an advertiser, AIQ, as an expense. The Court decided such a declaration by Vote Leave was legally required, even though the Commission had advised that it wasn’t; the Commission even insisted it had not given the advice until the email in which it did was produced! The Court made no findings that I did anything wrong.

The Electoral Commission’s Chief Executive wants to tough it out despite being in the wrong, and has brought in Field Fisher (City Solicitors) and Sir James Eadie QC to try and rescue it at vast expense to the taxpayer. I do not know exactly what Sir James is to be paid for opposing my Appeal, but a clue may be found in his remuneration returns for the last year which show he was paid £2.2 million just for his work for the Government.

For me, the case is not just about money, although for the record I don’t have anything like £20,000 to pay the fine. It’s about my integrity and whether we should be encouraging young people to take part in politics.

Update 11

Darren Grimes

Feb. 4, 2019

I went back home to tell my nana about my fight!

I went back home to County Durham to tell my nana about my fight with the biased Electoral Commission, she was amazed when I told her that, thanks to over 2,000 of you, I'm now able to take them to court!

You can watch the video on Facebook or Twitter.

Anything you can give, or have given, will help me fight this anti-Brexit bias.

From me and my family, thank you!

Update 10

Darren Grimes

Jan. 7, 2019

(Extremely) Limited disclosure at last!

It has taken the Electoral Commission, the so-called guardians of our democracy, 12 months to provide me with a transcript of an interview I did with them in January 2018, a transcript that I was assured by their Head of Regulation would be given to me shortly after the interview.

Why? Well, the Electoral Commission argue that this 12 month old transcript has only been "recently finalised", it's important to bear in mind that this is evidence that the so-called guardians of our democracy say they rely upon in their case against me.

Twelve months to type up an hour long interview? From a Commission that would give me weeks to reply to complex legal questions and ask me to search through years of my life to satisfy their three investigations into my campaigning for Brexit. Without any legal support or cash to support myself.

Three investigations and no disclosure of key pieces of evidence that the Electoral Commission say they rely upon in their case against me. They say I have committed an offence. Yet refuse to disclose this supposedly damning dossier of evidence that supposedly proves my guilt.

We have to ask ourselves, Leave or Remain, how this can happen in a country like ours? A country that passionately advocates independent courts and a belief that everyone accused of a criminal offence should have minimum rights, like a full and fair understanding of, and in detail, the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

I want to thank all of you who have donated to my CrowdJustice campaign so far, I couldn't have even got to this point without your encouragement and support. Anything you can give will help me in my, what I hope you can see as an admirable and justified, quest to right a significant wrong. Thank you.

Update 9

Darren Grimes

Nov. 4, 2018

⚖️ Government defends Electoral Commission + case to be heard next summer!

You can watch a video update from my day in court on Friday on Twitter or Facebook.

First up, in court on Friday the Judge decided that my case against the Electoral Commission, funded by all of you (thank you once again), would be heard in summer next year.

The Judge also ruled that the Electoral Commission must respond to the Grounds of Appeal and Skeleton Arguments, that they've so far refused to do, clearly, a Commission that has just lost its head and members of its board due to accusations of bias and mismanagement has more pressing things to deal with.

I left the court angry and dismayed by the fact that the Electoral Commission will have the top QCs and solicitor firms in the land thanks to its support from the Government Legal Department, which means it now has a blank cheque, underwritten by the public purse.

The High Court recently ruled that the Electoral Commission gave Vote Leave incorrect advice, that Vote Leave acted upon when it chose to donate to my campaign, BeLeave, so how can it be right that the taxpayer now has to put forward hundreds of thousands of pounds on cleaning up the Electoral Commission's mess?

This, of course, comes at a time when the police force received absolutely diddly squat from the Chancellor out of the Budget. What does it say about British justice when hundreds of thousands of pounds in hard-earned taxpayer cash are being funnelled into defending Electoral Commission bias – over our priorities – like, for example, funding for front-line policing?

What does it say about our justice system when hundreds of thousands of pounds are going into defending an incompetent quango full of Remainers and establishment figures, instead of front-line policing at a time when kids are being stabbed to death on our streets and burglaries are going without investigation because of our overstretched police force?

It’s absolutely disgusting.

Every penny that you give to my campaign will go on ensuring that there is a voice heard in the Brexit debate, that the Electoral Commission cannot get away with this bias and that actually it forces a rethink – I’m really not sure how the Government can justify this if I’m honest with you – and I’d like to be the one out there making that case, but I can’t do that without your help.

So, again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

Update 8

Darren Grimes

Oct. 4, 2018

Priti Patel MP offers her support at #CPC18

Firstly, to clarify, I've had a few emails and messages on the Electoral Commission’s defeat in the High Court.

To clear up any confusion: The High Court ruling said Vote Leave received incorrect advice by the Electoral Commission: but the Electoral Commission are STILL trying to bankrupt me, I'm STILL appealing their maximum fine and STILL under police investigation.

So your support is STILL vital! Thank you!

Now, I was delighted to have the support of Priti Patel at the Making a Success of Brexit - The BrexitCentral Conference Rally: against the Remain-backing establishment, the left-wing media and many of our politicians. You can watch a clip here and watch my speech at the same event here.

Thank you again for your support. This is the calm before the storm, but your help and support mean that Brexit-backing activists like myself can weather what they throw our way.

Best wishes,
Darren Grimes

Update 7

Darren Grimes

Sept. 18, 2018

Saunders Law: Darren Grimes Appeal – Electoral Commission in Disarray

The Electoral Commission investigated Darren after twice finding that he had not broken the law, but did not disclose key evidence to him, nor allow him an adequate opportunity to challenge evidence on which they relied. In Darren’s appeal, the Court will hear that the Commission did not even understand the law on Unincorporated Associations on which it relied to find Darren guilty.

Click here to read the statement in full.  

Update 6

Darren Grimes

Sept. 15, 2018

High Court: Electoral Commission 'misinterpreted' expenses

On the BBC’s Politics Live Labour’s emphatically pro-EU Lord Adonis said that the Electoral Commission looked "extremely incompetent” and suggested it should be abolished!

This was after a High Court judge ruled there was no "rational basis" for the watchdog's actions in fining the Vote Leave campaign. Click here to watch my latest video on Twitter or Facebook.

The Remain activist and QC Jolyon Maugham, who brought the case against the Electoral Commission and Vote Leave went as far as to say that “heads should roll" at the Electoral Commission.

In choosing to slap me with their maximum fine, the Commission refuses to accept that BeLeave was an unincorporated association prior to May 2016 and therefore argue that BeLeave could not have incurred spending as a permitted participant, but Paragraph 15 and 19 of the High Court’s judgement clearly disagrees:

  • Paragraph 15: “…“Beleave”, an unincorporated association set up by him [Darren Grimes] to campaign for a leave outcome…”

  • Paragraph 19: “…as BeLeave was an unincorporated association…”

In other words, this is yet another judgement by the Electoral Commission that is based on a deeply flawed reading of the law.

The Electoral Commission is straightforwardly not fit for purpose. On top of all its previous failings and mounting perceptions of political bias, it now appears to have had so little grasp of the law it was supposed to be enforcing that its advice has led to the hounding and ruining over two years of the lives of myself, my family and other Leave campaigners.

This can’t be right in modern Britain.

The Electoral Commission has demanded that parliament substantially expand its powers. New powers would include: abolition of the current £20,000 cap on fines, which means people like me, who have done nothing wrong other than campaign for the wrong side, would be slapped with even larger sums that they have no means to pay.

For an umpire like the Electoral Commission to perform their function, they must command the confidence of both sides with impartiality and competence. The Electoral Commission does neither. If it is to be fit for the powers it presently wields, nevermind those the Remoaner-stuffed DCMS Committee propose granting it, it needs a swift and serious overhaul.

They now have a chance to rectify their errors. They should do the right thing, but to be honest with you, I won’t hold my breath.

This is exactly why your support is so vital and necessary – once again – I want to take this opportunity to thank you for it.

Update 5

Darren Grimes

Sept. 7, 2018

Remain-backing Conservative MP on the coup against Brexit

Tory Remainer Robert H Halfon on why he would now vote to leave the EU: “I was very naive, I had no idea that the British establishment would try and do everything to stop it... it’s a coup against the decision of the people... you see the Electoral Commission hammering Darren Grimes.” Click here to watch the clip.

Update 4

Darren Grimes

Aug. 13, 2018

From the bottom of my heart, thank you

Sadly I could never be eloquent enough to express just how touched and grateful I am, but click here for a short video of me expressing my thanks and gratitude to all of you.

Almost 2,000 of you decided to back me and my campaign, in only 20 days I've raised £60,511. My Appeal, funded by all of you, will challenge the Electoral Commission's decision as being wrong in law, wrong in fact, predicated on a selective use of facts, and both disproportionate and completely unreasonable.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Update 3

Darren Grimes

July 30, 2018

Saunders Law on behalf of Darren Grimes concerning the DCMS report

DCMS has seen fit to publish a report suggesting our client Darren Grimes is guilty of offences, before his case has been heard by a Court, referring to ‘evidence of Russian state-sponsored attempts to influence elections in the US and the UK through social media, of the efforts of private companies to do the same, and of law-breaking by certain Leave campaign groups in the UK’s EU Referendum in their use of social media.’

Read in full:

Update 2

Darren Grimes

July 26, 2018

A statement by James Saunders of Saunders Law

Saunders Law has been instructed by Darren Grimes to appeal a penal ‘Final Notice’ issued by the Electoral Commission fining him £20,000 for alleged Brexit irregularities. The appeal will challenge this Notice as being wrong in law, wrong in fact, predicated on a selective use of facts, and both disproportionate and completely unreasonable.

Darren yesterday made a Crowd Funding appeal for funds to fight the case in Court, and is very grateful to the many who have generously supported him. As the Electoral Commission has chosen to publish its case in advance of the appeal, and so risk prejudice to due process, limited information about Darren’s case is published below, and will be updated as matters develop.

Read the statement in full here:

Update 1

Darren Grimes

July 25, 2018

Your donation will help me fight this in court, not pay the Electoral Commission

I want to be absolutely clear that each donation will go directly to my lawyer, to mount a legal challenge as indicated on my case page, and not to pay the Electoral Commission's proposed fine. 

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