A statement from the chief executive

Claire Bassett, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, said:

There has been significant misleading comment about the ruling of the High Court, published today. It’s important to look at the detail of what has actually been said by the Court. The High Court reached the same conclusion as the Commission did in its investigation – that Vote Leave should have accounted for the expenditure on the digital services firm, Aggregate IQ. We have already given Vote Leave the maximum fine available to us for the offences concerned. The High Court’s findings do not change the conclusions reached in our investigation: it too found that spending was incorrectly reported, that Vote Leave exceeded its spending limit and that it failed to declare this additional spending.

It is important to remember that the court rejected three of the four grounds of the judicial review claim. The court found there were no arguable grounds at all that the Commission had misinterpreted the law on joint spending by referendum campaigners, or had not properly supervised referendum spending, including in respect of advice given to Vote Leave, or had not properly investigated Vote Leave. The claim only proceeded on one ground, related to a detailed point of law on referendum spending. The regulatory regime governing referendums generally is unaffected. Indeed, the judgment noted the Commission’s findings and stated that, in the light of those findings, the issue raised in the proceedings “is now of less practical importance than it was”. It is important to note that the Commission’s findings are entirely unaffected by this judgment.

The High Court has not ruled on the advice we gave to Vote Leave. Our advice was generic and covered hypothetical scenarios. At no point did we give any advice or discuss payments to Aggregate IQ. Suggestions made otherwise today on social media are categorically untrue. Put simply, today’s ruling states that donations from one campaign group to another are lawful, but that those donations must be declared as expenditure by the person or campaign group making the donation, if it is for a specific purpose. This is something that Vote Leave did not do.