‘The Electoral Commission thought I was an easy target’

Darren Grimes on how he was branded a criminal for campaigning for Leave.

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

Ever since Leave won the referendum, those unhappy with the result have sought to delegitimise it. Brexit has been blamed on everything from Russian meddling to data mining. Some Remoaners have tried to label Brexit a ‘criminal enterprise’ and a product of electoral fraud.

One of their targets has been Darren Grimes, a young Brexit campaigner who set up BeLeave to fight the referendum. The Electoral Commission has made three attempts to investigate and fine Grimes, but last week he successfully quashed the charges in the court of appeal. spiked caught up with him after the verdict.

spiked: How did the accusations against you come about?

Darren Grimes: I set up BeLeave in December of 2015. We were doing things with digital and doing media appearances. Vote Leave made a donation to BeLeave, which the Electoral Commission said was permissible. It was totally permissible for the designated campaign to make donations to smaller campaigns. It wasn’t until after the referendum, when Buzzfeed started sniffing around, that the Electoral Commission opened up an investigation. It was scary. I’ve never been under investigation for anything before.

It shut down the investigation quite quickly. But then in 2017, it opened a second investigation. And I thought the investigators just wanted to be sure. They were looking into whether VoteLeave basically managed BeLeave, which I will maintain until my dying day that it absolutely didn’t.

After I was cleared the second time, Jolyon Maughan, a wealthy Remoaner QC, started a judicial review into the second investigation, asking why the Commission hadn’t found me guilty of anything. He applied political pressure through the courts with this judicial review.

The Commission then opened a third investigation, basically kowtowing to pressure from wealthy Remainers. The investigators must have thought to themselves that they couldn’t actually get me, they didn’t have any concrete evidence, so all they could say in the end was that I’d ticked the wrong box on a form. So after two years, three investigations, they find that I’ve ticked the wrong box on a form that was filled out in early 2016. Finally, under pressure from Remain activists, they had something.

If you ask me, the Electoral Commission is supposed to be an independent body, the ‘guardian of our democracy’, but it has become the provisional wing of the Remain campaign. It’s entirely unsustainable. This quango is judge, jury and executioner and it should not wield so much power for such a biased organisation.

spiked: How did the investigation affect you personally?

Grimes: It completely turned my life upside down. My mam started getting hounded by a newspaper – I won’t tell you which one but you can probably guess. The saddest moment for me was when she said she was going to sell her house that she bought under right to buy – it’s an ex-council house. My little brother has been hounded by the press, too. Journalists were saying things to them like ‘You should talk to us, it will help Darren.’ It was properly dodgy.

But it has not been easy at all. Every day I was getting emails and tweets that say things like ‘I can’t wait for you to be raped in prison’. And the reputational damage… I was offered a job by a publication that then rescinded the offer. The BBC said I was too controversial to invite on as well.

Then, I’m thinking I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this legal challenge. Obviously, I will be eternally grateful to everyone who donated to the crowd-justice campaign that I set up. Otherwise, there’s no way in hell I would have been able to fight this at all. So I thank God that I had any platform at all. ‘Infamous Brexit criminal’ is what the media called me. But it gave me a platform to crowdfund and fight the charges – and then win.

The Electoral Commission needed to be seen to be ‘getting’ the Leavers and I was an easy get-out. The people in charge probably thought, ‘There’s no way in hell he can afford to fight this. We can clobber him and it will be an easy win for us.’ But, obviously, I’m made of stronger stuff than that. I used to be bullied and beaten at school. I’m not going to let some puffed-up quango call the shots.

spiked: What did the case come down to in the end?

Grimes: The judge said in court that, having read all the evidence, he could see some massive inconsistencies in the witness statements against me. And if he could see that these people were either playing fast and loose with the truth or couldn’t get their facts right, then why couldn’t the Electoral Commission see that? It heard what it wanted to hear.

There’s a possibility that the Electoral Commission will appeal the decision. They have already spent half-a-million quid dragging me through the courts. And if they appeal, you’re talking another few hundreds of thousands for that as well. It’s a complete abuse of taxpayers’ money to pursue a £20,000 fine like this. But there is a real possibility this will happen.

spiked: How do you feel about the people who falsely accused you of being a ‘criminal’?

Grimes: Well, I’ve noticed a lot of them have started deleting their tweets and making apologies, which is interesting. There was a braying Twittermob. spiked writes about things like this so eloquently and so well. The mob was out to get me as soon as anything was said about me. All without looking at the facts, without asking me for my side of the story, without ever giving me a platform to be able to make my case for why this whole thing was always complete and utter anti-Brexit nonsense. There is a mob mentality against any politics that these people don’t like. And what they can’t stand more than anything is that they lost. That’s what this is all about. That is what it has always been about.

But I’ve had the last laugh, haven’t I? I just can’t wait to move on with my life. I honestly feel like a massive weight has been lifted.

Darren Grimes was talking to Fraser Myers.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Aberrant Apostrophe

27th July 2019 at 10:56 pm

If Quangos like the Electoral Commission had to pay legal costs out of their own pockets, perhaps they would be more careful with pursuing vexatious cases like this.

Neil McCaughan

27th July 2019 at 12:37 pm

I would like to salute the courage and integrity of Darren Grimes, and wish him every good fortune.

Gregory Buswell

26th July 2019 at 8:35 pm

Jolyon Maughan is an odd name.

christopher barnard

26th July 2019 at 2:35 pm

In Rochdale and Rotherham the establishment turns a blind eye to child sex abuse. Over Brexit it hounds a young man for incorrectly filling in a form.

Jane 70

26th July 2019 at 3:10 pm

And there is still much disquiet about the recent Peterborough by- election result.

Will the Electoral Commission step in?

Jane 70

26th July 2019 at 2:09 pm

Respect to remarkable Darren Grimes for having challenged what amounted to legal persecution for blatantly political ends, based on unsound reviews of the apparent evidence.

There is something Kafkaesque about the thoroughly biased hounding of this courageous young man.

What a waste of public money.

Time for a bonfire of the quangos.

Jim Lawrie

26th July 2019 at 10:35 am

Judicial review is a device for the powerful to change the law or create new ones, with the connivance of a judiciary, drawn from the ranks of Q.C.’s, and only too willing to extend its own powers.

Mr Grimes has won through his courage, tenacity, and refusal to be stripped of his rights. But the message has been delivered to anyone who thinks about not complying. That is to say, 52% of the population.

If you accept the definition of a brave man as one who resists the urge to run in the face of overwhelming adversity, but rather stands his ground and does the right thing, then you Mr Grimes are a very brave man.

Stewart Ware

26th July 2019 at 8:55 am

Having dragged him through the courts and lost, if the Electoral Commission appeal the decision this begins to look like harassment. Another crowdfunding appeal will then be necessary. It’s all a conspiracy by the crowdfunding industry. 😉

Ian Wilson

26th July 2019 at 8:47 am

His point about bullies neatly sums up everything I detest about social media, and especially twitter. Well done sir, and rest assured if those idiots do appeal, I’ll be donating to your fight.

Steve Roberts

26th July 2019 at 8:31 am

Here’s a gutsy young man who has had to face the force of some of the institutions of state, judicial interference, the electoral commission and the reactionary political class, they have no problem trying to destroy his life and his family’s just because he is their political opponent, so much for living in a free society. This is what these people do, none of us are immune from their reaches. We need root and branch reform if not dissolution of the electoral commission and the judiciary out of politics, the list of what sections of the establishment need removing is growing, we need to demand more freedoms and democracy. And first of all we need the removal from public life of the political class that are restricting our freedoms and denying our democracy.

Hana Jinks

28th July 2019 at 6:31 am

Ask Tommy about living in a free society. What do you think BP is if not political class?

Stephen J

26th July 2019 at 8:05 am

I think we will know about the character of the new government, when it comes to address the vexed subject of the “Blair Quango”.

As we all know, the BQ has blighted British government for far too long now.

If a “competence” isn’t important enough for government to deal with, it should be in private hands. As set up by Blair, it is merely a lengthening of the tentacles of EU style government, brought right into the corridors of Whitehall… It is un-British.

Our tradition is one of Habeas Corpus and Magna Carta, and under that system, we decide for ourselves whether we should be doing something or not.

We have suffered for far too long with the May style of puritan government, and it is about time that such practise was put firmly back in its box.

mark wooster

26th July 2019 at 1:05 pm

It seems odd that the Electoral Commission could just keep going, time and time again with this case. I’m not sure if it applies here but, in previous years wouldn’t the double jeprody rules have ruled that once tried you couldn’t be tried for the same crime again? I’m aware that the Blair government recinded double jeprody early on because of the Stephen Lawrence case. At the time there was some opposition to it but the Blairites had used the not guilty verdicts to bolster their cause. I may be wrong here, I’m no legal expert but could this be an example of how the absense of double jeprody has lead to the establishment’s ability to persue those they disagree with through the courts until they either get the result they want or have weakened the finances and resolve of their chosen victim? I think this was the very thing that double jeprody was established within law to guard against.

mark wooster

26th July 2019 at 1:15 pm

damn! I spelled it wrong it’s ‘double jeopardy’. Here is a definition from Wikipedia:-
Double jeopardy is a procedural defence that prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges and on the same facts, following a valid acquittal or conviction.

Philip Humphrey

26th July 2019 at 6:54 am

There’s a remarkable parallel between this and the Mueller investigation in the USA (which collapsed into farce this week when Mueller was questioned by Congress, but had few answers). I suspect this will be leftist tactics from now on every time they lose, not to try harder next time, but to cry foul (or the Russians) and call an investigation.

Neil John

27th July 2019 at 3:24 pm

Not too dissimilar to whats happening to Shelia Gunn-Reid in Canada. https://www.therebel.media/save-sheila-gunn-reid-alberta-elections-commissioner-stop-notley

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