Back in April 2017, the Electoral Commission announced it was investigating the Brexit campaign group Leave.EU over possible breaches of the rules controlling expenditure and finances for the European referendum.
The investigation resulted in Leave.EU being found guilty and last week after an appeal hearing in the county court, the punishment was set at a fine of £60,000.
The Electoral Commission commented:
The court, having confirmed the offences we found that Leave.EU committed, has also confirmed that these offences justified substantial penalties.
We impose penalties to ensure that the rules on campaign finance are complied with, and so that people throughout the UK can be confident in the integrity and transparency of campaign finance. After a robust and detailed investigation, we found that Leave.EU committed serious offences. Substantial penalties were proportionate as a result. Leave.EU’s fine now stands at £66,000. We look forward to receiving the sum in full.
This £60,000 fine for Leave.EU is separate from (and additional to) the £120,000 fine for Leave.EU from the Information Commissioner, also related to Brexit campaigning.
Even so, the size of this fine is likely to raise the question once again of what the maximum fines should be. As the Electoral Commission added:
We are concerned that the relatively low penalties we are able to impose – up to £20,000 per offence – risk being seen as the cost of doing business by campaigners with significant funds. We believe that Parliament should substantially increase the level of penalty we can impose, so we can meet our enforcement aims of compliance and transparency of campaign finance.
A maximum of £20,000 as a fine when election expense limits can run into the tens of millions of pounds is indeed rather lowly.
For a full list of the findings of rule-breaking against Brexit campaigners related to the referendum (now up into double figures) see here.
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