Joanne Cecil of Garden Court Chambers is instructed by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon) of Bindmans LLP.
Concerned politicians and parliamentarians, Ben Bradshaw MP, Tom Brake MP, Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb, Caroline Lucas MP and Fiona Mactaggart MP confirm they are taking the first steps in a legal action against the Metropolitan Police in regards to electoral offences committed during the June 2016 EU referendum.
Last year, following revelations by whistleblowers, the Electoral Commission published two reports in which they found that individuals involved in the June 2016 European Union Brexit referendum campaign had broken the law on campaign spending limits and transparent and accurate spending reports. Three individuals and three campaign groups were found to have committed these offences, with the Electoral Commission using the full force of its powers to impose the highest fines permitted by statute.
In its reports, the Electoral Commission specifically drew attention to the fact that it had found, beyond reasonable doubt, that electoral offences had been committed. These electoral offences mirror criminal offences under the same statute. In line with its Enforcement Policy, the Electoral Commission referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police Service. In September of last year, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that it had received over 2,000 documents from the Electoral Commission comprising information provided by the whistleblowers, and a full explanation of why the Electoral Commission believed these offences had been committed.
The Metropolitan Police have been in possession of this information for over 11 months. To date, no decision has been reached as to whether any of these individuals and organisations should be charged. The group is seeking fundraising support for the case on the Crowdjustice platform, with an initial target of £12,000. Support this case on Crowdjustice.
Ben Bradshaw MP said:
"It is of extreme concern that the investigation into this law-breaking by the Leave campaign has dragged on for so long. The Metropolitan Police needs to explain why it has taken so long and reassure the public, as an independent body, that it is not because of the political sensitivity of this issue. Public & political arguments over Brexit or any other issue should never deter our law enforcement agencies from doing their job, without fear or favour."
Tom Brake MP said:
"The public are entitled to know without delay the extent of any criminal law-breaking that took place in the run-up, during and after the EU Referendum campaign. Foot-dragging is not an option for the police when investigating claims relating to the integrity of our democracy."
Caroline Lucas MP said:
“It doesn’t matter whether you support Leave or Remain, we all need to have confidence in the democratic process - and when laws have been broken, the perpetrators should be held to account.
We know that both the Leave campaigns broke electoral law and it’s very disturbing that the Metropolitan Police have taken no decision over whether anyone should be charged, despite sitting on the evidence for nearly a year. We are all entitled to know why. That’s why this legal action, requiring the police to explain why nothing has been done, is so vital.”
Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb said:
"For democracy to work, we need rules that ensure that the rich and powerful can't buy undue influence and that the flow of donations and other payments is transparent. Our democracy can only function successfully when those in authority enforce the rules and punish wrongdoing."
Fiona Mactaggart said:
"This country has established rules to make political contests fair. We don't accept that those with access to money should be able to buy their way into power. During the referendum on our future relationship with Europe, those rules were broken. The people responsible should pay the price and the police and prosecutors who are responsible for enforcing the rules should do their duty."
The legal team has drafted a letter before claim, which they are today sending to the Metropolitan Police challenging their delay in investigation and seeking an explanation as to their failure to reach a charging decision.
Joanne Cecil of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties team is instructed by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon) of Bindmans LLP. Schona Jolly QC and Ruaraidh Fitzpatrick of Cloisters Chambers are also instructed.