A legal opinion prepared by Matrix Chambers and published by the House of Commons Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today shows a ‘prima facie case’ for at least four separate electoral offences committed by Vote Leave in the EU referendum campaign.
The opinion is based on testimony from a third whistleblower – Mark Gettleson – who had firsthand knowledge of the campaign as a web designer and communications consultant.
It relates to the way different Leave-supporting campaigns interacted, and alleges very strongly that there was coordination on spending between the different campaigns, which is illegal. This was done to avoid the spending limits that apply under election law.
This much we basically knew, but the opinion does go far deeper into the offences than previous journalistic reporting, mainly because of Gettleson’s account and the primary evidence he’s provided.
The Matrix lawyers state pretty baldly:
In the absence of cogent evidence in defence of the allegations, we consider that there would be realistic prospects of conviction of these offences.
Reading further into the paper, it’s abundantly clear that the two key campaigns – Vote Leave and BeLeave – were absolutely indistinguishable. You can read more of the background of the sudden, massive £625,000 given to BeLeave’s 23 year old leader Darren Grimes on openDemocracy.
It is extraordinary how little attention has been captured by the newly published opinion, and how few statements made by Parliamentarians or members of the government. As I write, the Liberal Democrats – allegedly the foremost voice against Brexit, although I wish we were speaking far louder and far more boldly – have yet to make a statement on the issue.
Regardless, the opinion only confirms the deep suspicions I hold over the legality of the Leave campaign’s behaviour. I am amazed that so few people who voted Leave are concerned about the possibility that the referendum is unsafe.
However, if investigators stick doggedly to their guns, if further whistleblowers keep coming forward, and if Matrix Chambers continue their forensic work, I have no doubt that we will see exactly how far this rabbit hole goes.