Interest group set to launch private prosecution against Vote Leave
Restoring Integrity says it has received independent legal opinion supportive of a private prosecution
The Vote Leave referendum campaign has breached election law, an interest group has claimed after crowdfunding more than £10,000 to obtain a leading QC's opinion on the prospect of a successful prosecution.
Restoring Integrity describes itself as 'a group of UK citizens seeking to restore integrity to our democratic process following EU Referendum campaign conduct which we believe was unlawful and has led to deepening of public divisions'.
The group, which raised £10,610 in April, told Solicitors Journal this morning they had now received a 'fully independent' opinion from counsel which supported their case and were seeking a further £10,000 to bring a private prosecution.
They allege corrupt practice on the part of the Vote Leave campaign which they say amounts to 'undue influence' '“ a criminal offence, found in section 115(2)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which was extended to the EU referendum.
Election fraud cases must be brought within a year of the results, leaving the Restoring Integrity team until 22 June to start their case. By mid-afternoon today, the group had already raised more than £8,000.
Their claim centres on five separate grounds of undue influence, including 'continued reference to the UK sending the EU £350m per week, despite this crucial figure having been formally discredited by the Office for National Statistics'.
Among other falsehoods they say Vote Leave misleadingly held out as facts were claims that Turkey would soon be joining the EU, misrepresenting corporations such as Airbus, GE, and Unilever as Leave supporters, and misrepresenting politicians such as SNP MP Stephen Gethins and Green party leader Caroline Lucas as supporting Leave.
The group is yet to say which of the individuals behind the Vote Leave campaign it would be prosecuting.
Election law specialist professor Bob Watt, a member of Restoring Integrity, led an earlier attempt to convince the director of public prosecutions to start criminal proceedings against Vote Leave and Leave.EU for making assertions that they knew were misleading.
DPP Alison Saunders replied to the group on 20 December 2016 that she would not institute proceedings.
Jean-Yves Gilg is editor-in-chief of Solicitors Journal