Our democracy isn't for sale - help us tell the Court of Appeal

by Good Law Project Limited

Our democracy isn't for sale - help us tell the Court of Appeal

by Good Law Project Limited
Good Law Project Limited
Case Owner
I am Jo Maugham, a Queen's Counsel and director of the Good Law Project, which successfully sued the Electoral Commission for failing properly to investigate Vote Leave.
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Good Law Project Limited
Case Owner
I am Jo Maugham, a Queen's Counsel and director of the Good Law Project, which successfully sued the Electoral Commission for failing properly to investigate Vote Leave.
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Latest: Feb. 12, 2019

We have a hearing date

The Electoral Commission's appeal against the decision of the High Court that the Electoral Commission failed properly to apply electoral law during the EU Referendum will be heard on 4th July ...

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Last year the Good Law Project sued the Electoral Commission in the High Court. The case raised questions about the conduct of Vote Leave, Darren Grimes, and the Electoral Commission during the 2016 Referendum. Before we brought that case the Electoral Commission told us two things. First, they said they had conducted a proper investigation into Vote Leave and Darren Grimes’ conduct during the referendum campaign and that they was right to take no action against either. Second they said they had correctly understood and applied the law during the Referendum.

We forced the Electoral Commission to investigate Vote Leave - and Vote Leave was referred to the police

After we brought that case, and knowing it would face judicial scrutiny, the Electoral Commission changed its position. It told us that, having it reviewed its files after we sued, it had decided to reopen its investigation into Vote Leave and Darren Grimes. And the rest is history. When, eventually, it finished its investigation it concluded that Vote Leave and Darren Grimes had, in effect, cheated. Both were referred to the police.

The Electoral Commission put our democracy up for sale

However, the Electoral Commission continued to dispute the second part of our case. That second part concerned whether the Electoral Commission had correctly understood and applied electoral law. The Electoral Commission’s view was that if participant X in the referendum donated money to participant Y then the donation could not count as X’s expenditure even if X imposed conditions on how Y was to spend that money. We thought that was a nonsense which would make a mockery of the caps on spending in referendums and elections. X could spend limitless amounts on whatever it chose by funnelling 'donations' through a series of different Ys imposing on each an obligation as to how it was to spend the money

The Electoral Commission tilted the playing field in favour of Leave

A very powerful High Court – composed of two judges both of whom now sit in the Court of Appeal – decided we were right and the Electoral Commission was wrong.

This was important both in general and in particular. It was important in general because it meant that the spending caps continued to matter. And it was important in particular because during the referendum campaign the Electoral Commission gave Vote Leave advice that it could donate to other campaigns, advice that Vote Leave acted upon. And it did not give that advice to the Remain campaign. Had it given it to the Remain campaign it would also have spent more, just like Vote Leave did.

The consequence of the High Court’s decision was that the Electoral Commission – the body in charge of ensuring that the Referendum was fair – had ensured it was unfair. It had tilted the playing field in a hard fought campaign in favour of Vote Leave.

We beat the Electoral Commission in the High Court and now we need to beat it again

The Electoral Commission is now appealing against the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal. Its appeal will be heard in July. And Good Law Project will have to defend the High Court's decision .

We’ve got the team back together. Jessica Simor QC and Tom Cleaver, the barristers who acted for Good Law Project in the High Court, have generously agreed to act in the Court of Appeal without any further fee. 

Please help us protect democracy

We have no big funders who give us money to make the Electoral Commission do its job. And this is an issue of vital importance – if the Court of Appeal were to agree with the Electoral Commission it would be hard to see what would be left of the spending limits in referendums or general elections. Our democracy would be up for sale.

The first £10,000 we raise will go to meet the fees of Deighton Pierce Glynn. The next £13,000 will go to repaying the unfunded costs Good Law Project incurred in the High Court. And any further funds we raise will be used to support the general work of the Good Law Project including protecting our democracy. For the record, our director, Jo Maugham QC, continues to work entirely unpaid.

If you value your democracy and the work we do, please help.

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Update 1

Good Law Project Limited

Feb. 12, 2019

We have a hearing date

The Electoral Commission's appeal against the decision of the High Court that the Electoral Commission failed properly to apply electoral law during the EU Referendum will be heard on 4th July 2019. 

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