EU Referendum “Leave” campaigns referred to Director of Public Prosecutions

26 October 2016

A complaint has been been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, alleging corrupt practices during the EU referendum by leading politicians and campaigners.

The allegations involve six separate grounds of “undue influence” by the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns. The DPP is duty-bound to consider complaints and institute such proceedings as the circumstances require, under legislation within the EU Referendum Act. If upheld, criminal prosecution of individuals responsible could carry a potential jail term of up to one year.

Evidence has been submitted by a group naming itself as “Restoring Integrity”, which is made up of lawyers and ordinary citizens and backed by election law expert, Professor bob Watt of the University of Buckingham.

Professor Watt said, “It is clear that there remains deep public concern over the conduct of the referendum campaigning. In referring this public interest matter to the DPP, concerns centre on instances where the Leave campaigns continued to make assertions of fact that were knowingly misleading. Under election law, these amount to ‘fraudulent devices or contrivances’ which constitute a serious criminal offence. Other fraudulent devices include misrepresentation of businesses and individuals as having supported Leave where they made it very clear they did not, as well as certain leaflets and websites which we believe were intentionally designed to trick voters.”

Some of the evidence submitted includes:

  • Continued reference to the EU costing £350 million pounds per week, despite having been debunked by the ONS
  • High profile claims that “Turkey Is Joining the EU” shortly
  • Misrepresentation of businesses and individuals, such as Nissan and Unilever, and politicians such as SNP MP Stephen Gethins and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas
  • The assertion that “the UK has no border controls whilst in the EU”, despite the UK spending nearly £2bn per year on border controls and immigration

Professor Watt continued, “Because we lack investigatory powers, it is difficult for citizens to compile exhaustive evidence of wrongdoing or to attribute precise responsibility. We have excluded potential claims which seem to amount to opinion, such as the “Punishment Budget”. Whilst that may be considered by some as deplorable, only claims which amount to assertion of fact are likely to meet the test for undue influence. Our primary aim in seeking prosecution is to try to restore some integrity to our democratic processes. None of us is willing to allow the UK to be dragged down to some kind of populist “who can lie and deceive the most?” race to the bottom, such as we witnessed earlier this year.

A properly conducted referendum should help bring to people together who were previously divided in their views, with the losing side having to accept the result. Unfortunately, the EU referendum seems to have achieved precisely the opposite. In the UK we have laws to protect against corrupt campaigning practices. Ultimately it will be for parliament to decide, based on the court’s judgment on evidence that there was undue influence, if that has bearing on whether the EU referendum result should be considered as democratically safe.”