Crown prosecutors consider complaint against Brexit EU referendum campaigns

The letter accuses Vote Leave and Leave.EU of misleading voters

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Monday 07 November 2016 17:50
Comments
Vote Leave have been accused of misleading voters
Vote Leave have been accused of misleading voters

Crown prosecutors are considering a complaint that the Leave campaign misled voters during the EU referendum campaign.

The complaint against Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns was submitted by academic experts in electoral law, who suggested “corrupt campaigning practices” were used by campaigners.

The group, led by Professor Bob Watt of the University of Buckingham, alleges that the Leave campaign made “assertions of fact that were knowingly misleading”.

The falsehoods named include the high-profile claim that the EU was costing £350 million a week – a claim that Vote Leave continued to use despite repeated ticking offs by the UK Statistics Authority.

Under UK electoral law “undue influence” is considered a corrupt practice. The offence includes the use of a “fraudulent device or contrivance”.

“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,” Mr Watt told the Guardian newspaper.

'If you think you voted for Brexit in possession of truth, honesty and fact then you're a banana'

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: “We can confirm that this letter has been received and we are currently considering its content.”

The complaint is being considered by a special team that deals with electoral crimes.

Leave.EU has not yet issued a statement on the subject. Matthew Elliott, former chief executive of Vote Leave, said in response to the complaint: “We wish Bob [Watt] well.”

Under the 1983 Representation of the People Act the Director of Public Prosecutions can consider electoral offences when they are directly referred to her office but not before then.

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