BeLeave founder Darren Grimes blasts Electoral Commission as ‘out of control quango’ after police drop probe into claims that pro-Brexit campaigner breached spending rules during EU referendum campaign
Darren Grimes was fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission in 2018
The BeLeave founder saw the fine overturned in July last year after an appeal
Ten months on Met Police ends investigation into Mr Grimes and Alan Halsall
By LUKE MAY FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 17:40, 8 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:14, 8 May 2020
A pro-Brexit campaigner has blasted the Electoral Commission as an ‘out of control quango,’ after a fine he was given in 2018 was overturned and police ended its probe spending during the EU referendum campaign.
Darren Grimes, founder of youth group BeLeave was fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission in 2018 after he was accused of making false declarations in relation to a £680,000 donation to his youth-focused BeLeave group from the main Vote Leave campaign.
He successfully appealed the ruling in July last year and Met Police have today announced they’ve stopped investigating the 26-year-old, along with Vote Leave board member Alan Halsall.
Mr Grimes said the development called into question whether the Electoral Commission was ‘fit for purpose’.
He had insisted since the allegations were first made that he was ‘completely innocent’ of making false declarations in relation to a £680,000 donation to his youth-focused BeLeave group from the main Vote Leave campaign.
The Electoral Commission found that BeLeave ‘spent more than £675,000 with (Canadian data firm) Aggregate IQ under a common plan with Vote Leave’, which should have been declared by the latter but was not.
This spending took Vote Leave over its £7 million legal spending limit by almost £500,000.
In a statement, Mr Grimes, a former fashion student originally from County Durham, said: ‘The Metropolitan Police has found, after investigation and consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, that there is no case to be answered.
‘Once again the Electoral Commission has been found to be part of the mob, a quango out of control that isn’t policing elections so much as punishing Leavers who have the temerity to win them.
‘My ordeal at the hands of the kangaroo court that is the Electoral Commission is now over, but questions must now be asked of whether that body is fit for purpose.’
But Mr Grimes won an appeal against the fine in July, having crowdfunded to raise £93,956 to contest it in court.
A spokesman for the Leave campaigners said: ‘The Metropolitan Police has written to Vote Leave board member Alan Halsall and BeLeave founder Darren Grimes to confirm that it will not be acting on allegations made against them by the Electoral Commission and various Remain campaigners.
‘This marks the end of a two-year ordeal for both individuals.’
Mr Halsall, the responsible person for Vote Leave, said he was ‘delighted to have been exonerated’ and thanked the police for their ‘professional’ investigation.
‘I was very disappointed that my colleagues at Vote Leave and myself were never given the opportunity of making our case in person to the Electoral Commission before being fined and reported to the police,’ he added.
‘It seems a rather unusual way of conducting an inquiry into such matters that only the so-called whistleblowers who made these allegations are interviewed by the regulator.’
A spokesman for the Met said an investigation into the Electoral Commission’s allegations against Vote Leave and BeLeave, submitted on July 17 2018, was handed over in October to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
‘On Tuesday, March 3 preliminary advice was received from the CPS,’ said the force spokesman.
‘This advice has now been duly considered and no further action will be taken.’