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Court of Appeal clarifies electoral accounting


R (Good Law Project) v. Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567

The Court of Appeal has unanimously allowed an appeal arising out of the 2016 EU referendum, confirming the Electoral Commission’s analysis.

The case concerned the extent to which the statutory regimes for reporting of donations and of referendum expenses are distinct. On the Claimant’s case, endorsed by the Divisional Court, the designated ‘leave’ campaigner at the 2016 EU referendum would have overspent its statutory expenditure limits by donating its surplus funds to pay for a specific project arranged by another campaigner.

The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that “the correct interpretation of the legislation read as a whole is that a donation to a permitted participant cannot also be an expense incurred by the donor”. The Divisional Court had applied a complex analysis inappropriately importing “potentially complicated and subtle concepts of civil law into what is a criminal context”.

The judgment is here.

Gerard Rothschild appeared for the Electoral Commission, instructed by the Government Legal Department.

Richard Gordon QC was also instructed at earlier stages in the case.