The Electoral Commission misinterpreted the definition of “referendum expenses” in PPERA 2000, s 111(2). The source of its error was the mistaken conclusion that an individual or body that makes a donation to a permitted participant cannot thereby incur referendum expenses. This was inconsistent with both the language and the purpose of the legislation. Distinguishing between a “general” donation (which did not fall within the definition of “referendum expenses”) and a “specific” donation tied to the purchasing of particular goods or services falling within Part I of Sch 13 to the Act (which did) was necessary in order to make the best possible sense of a statutory scheme which, while setting no limit on donations, limits spending on campaign activities with the object of preventing any individual or body from using its wealth to gain disproportionate attention for its views.
Jessica Simor QC and Eleanor Mitchell were involved in this case.