In keeping with our commitment to unmediated access to source material and evidence, we have taken the decision to publish the full opinion submitted to the Electoral Commission regarding evidence that suggests cheating by Vote Leave in the EU Referendum. As it is a thorough document, we’ve had a helpful guide/explainer written (below) to assist you digesting it.
Statement from Tamsin Allen, Partner, Bindmans LLP:
This document contains the views of independent counsel who were instructed to advise on whether the statements and evidence provided to them, and to the Electoral Commission, reveals a prima facie case that electoral offences were committed by Vote Leave during the referendum campaign.
Paragraphs 43 – 103 describes the events from February 2016 to June 2016 from the perspective of two insiders in Vote Leave and Mr Wylie. Those people produce evidence to show the creation of the campaign group BeLeave and the close way in which the two groups worked together in the same office and with oversight from senior Vote Leave officials. They then describe the events in the last weeks of the Referendum and the way in which a huge donation was made, ostensibly to BeLeave, but actually directly to Aggregate IQ for its digital services.
This represents the most comprehensive account yet released and refers in detail to the evidence that has been produced.
Paragraph 104-129 explain events just after the Referendum when it appears that senior Vote Leave officials took steps to instruct the young BeLeave volunteers about what they should do, and altered a shared Google drive in a way which has not yet been explained.
Counsel then analyse the facts and conclude, at paragraph 167, that there is powerful evidence, including contemporaneous correspondence…that Vote Leave and BeLeave were intimately linked for the entirety of the relevant period; that there are good grounds to infer that Vote Leave was involved in the decision by which the AIQ payments were made and aware of the scope and that the payments supported its own campaign; there is good reason to doubt the account given by Mr Grimes of the payments and, at paragraph 175, it is strongly arguable that the AIQ payments fell within the definition of common plan expenses and should have been reported by Vote Leave.
This detailed analysis of the evidence, is what gives rise to the conclusions that there is strong evidence to indicate that Vote leave has committed offences under PPERA (paragraph 176), that, in the absence of cogent evidence in defence of these allegations there would be realistic prospects of conviction on those offences (para 178) and that there are reasonable grounds to suspect these offences were committed with the knowledge, assistance and agreement of Mr Cummings, and grounds to investigate whether Mr Parkinson and Ms Watson are also guilty of such conspiracy offences. It also deals with the powers of the Electoral Commission and refers to its agreement to liaise with police and prosecutors at an early stage.
See the full opinion below, or download a copy for yourself.