July 16, 2019
Electoral Commission found defunct far-right party had failed to declare donations
Britain First fined £44,000 over electoral law breaches
The now-defunct fringe far-right party Britain First must pay a fine of more than £44,000 for what the Electoral Commission has said were multiple breaches of electoral law, including undeclared donations and a failure to provide proper accounts.
The party achieved brief notoriety in late 2017 after Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim messages sent by the party’s then deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, prompting international condemnation.
Fransen and Britain First’s then leader, Paul Golding, were both jailed the following March for religiously aggravated harassment after a court heard they targeted people they believed were connected to a rape trial involving Muslim defendants.
Britain First has not been a registered political party since November 2017, but it must pay a total of £44,200 following an investigation that identified a series of offences.
The fine comprised £11,000 for failing to keep accurate financial records of transactions in 2016; £7,700 for failing to file any quarterly donation reports in 2016, totalling £200,000 of undeclared donations; £5,500 for not having its 2016 accounts professionally audited; and a final £20,000 – the maximum possible – for failing to provide information sought by the commission.
A “payment arrangement” had been agreed between Britain First and the commission, it said.
Louise Edwards, the commission’s director of regulation, said: “Registered political parties must provide full, accurate data on their donations and accounts so that voters can see where their money comes from. Britain First’s inability to meet certain basic requirements led to a disappointing lack of transparency into the party’s finances.
“The party’s failure to comply with a statutory notice is a serious offence and shows a disregard for the law. Throughout our investigation, we saw little to suggest that Britain First appreciated that if it wants to contest elections, it must meet its legal responsibilities, which is why we have imposed the penalties that we have.”
Founded by former members of the British National party with an overtly anti-Islam and race-based agenda, Britain First gained limited prominence in social media messaging, but made no real inroads as a party.
It stood some candidates in the 2014 European elections, but was condemned by the family of Lee Rigby for referring to the murder of the soldier by Islamist attackers in an election broadcast.
In the 2016 London mayoral election, Golding stood for the party and finished eighth, on 1.2% of the vote, marginally above the Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol party.
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