UKIP repays £18,000 in illegal donations
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been ordered to forfeit more than £18,000 in donations after a court ruled it broke electoral guidelines.
Westminster Magistrates Court said the donations were impermissible because one donor was not on the electoral roll and another company was registered to the Isle of Man.
The Electoral Commission had originally ordered UKIP to repay more than £350,000 in illegal donations but this was today overruled by the court, which said UKIP had acted negligently.
The political party received £363,697 from businessman Keith Brown between December 2004 and January 2006.
However, during this time Mr Brown was not on the electoral roll, meaning UKIP breached rules banning donations from foreign benefactors.
Mr Brown did not know he had been removed from the roll until December 2005 and he was reinstated the following February.
Senior district judge Tim Workman agreed today UKIP should only forfeit funds paid during this latter period – amounting to £14,481.
But he warned the party it had not carried out sufficient checks, although agreed the breach was accidental.
UKIP has also been ordered to forfeit £4,000 donated by the company Nighteck, as it is registered on the Isle of Man.
The money goes to the government rather than not back to the donors, although Mr Brown has said he will replace his forfeited donation.
Speaking after the ruling, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was relieved the Electoral Commission’s original ruling, which risked bankrupting the party, was overturned.
Mr Farage said: “We have said right from the start that we as a party should have checked whether Alan was on the electoral register, not just taken his word for it.
“It was entirely disproportionate for the Electoral Commission to seek the forfeiture of the whole amount.
“We may have broken the letter of the act but we did not break the spirit of the act.”
The Electoral Commission has spoken of its disappointment at the ruling.
In a statement it said: “We will study the judgement carefully and will consider whether to appeal.
“Public confidence in our democracy depends on political parties abiding by the rules.”
The case marked the first legal challenge to the commission’s interpretation of the 2000 Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have both repaid tens of thousands in illicit donations.