Leave campaigners face private prosecution over alleged electoral law breaches - Nissan logo and Brexit bus likely to feature

A pressure group is planning to mount a private prosecution against Leave campaigners over allegations they breached electoral law during last year's EU referendum.

Tuesday, 13th June 2017, 9:02 am
Updated Thursday, 15th June 2017, 8:40 am
Brexit bus. Picture credit: Charlotte Graham - Guzelian
Brexit bus. Picture credit: Charlotte Graham - Guzelian

Any prosecution is likely to target oft-repeated claims that membership of the EU costs the UK £350 million a week and that Turkey is set to join the EU, as well as the alleged misrepresentation of companies like Unilever, Airbus and Nissan, whose logos were printed on campaign leaflets.

The deadline for a case to be tabled at magistrate's court is June 22 - a year after the campaign ended - and the Restoring Integrity group are trying to raise £80,000 through the CrowdJustice.com website to fund the initial stages of the battle.

After an earlier attempt to seek state prosecution was rejected in December by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the group has sought independent advice from two QCs over whether a private case could succeed.

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The barristers advised that the campaign claims might breach the Representation of the People Act's ban on impeding or preventing the free exercise of the franchise, if it could be shown that they were made dishonestly with the intention of influencing the way individuals voted.

Group founder Bob Watt, former professor of electoral law at the University of Buckingham, told the Press Association: "My main interest in this is in electoral integrity.

"I don't think people who fight elections or referendums ought to be able to rely on statements of at least doubtful validity. Voters ought to be able to make electoral decisions on the basis of fact, not wild and woolly statements."

The possible private prosecution comes as Westminster is dominated by wrangling over the future of Brexit in the wake of Theresa May's loss of her Commons majority in the general election, though the group stressed that the timing of their case was not determined by electoral developments.