The case appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on July 28 this year in front of Sheriff Reid, with the full judgement now published.
The pursuer, VMS Enterprises Limited, provides advertising such as mobile van and bike billboards and has a registered office address in Glasgow.
The firm was asked by Jones to provide advertising services for candidates in a variety of London constituencies. Between 25 November 2019 and 12 December 2019, there were a total of 28 orders placed with the company.
However, according to the court judgment, Howard Jones, a volunteer and campaign manager, had instructed VMS Enterprises to go ahead with these orders without prior approval from the party itself.
The Campaign Expenditure Instructions initially said that the Brexit Party would meet candidates’ campaign expenditure under the rules set by the Electoral Commission in September 2019.
But, in October 2019 the policy was changed and it explicitly said that each candidate would be capped at £5,000 and prior approval had to be given for any campaign spending by Deborah Stokes, who’s role in the party was not specified, and she would then issue a purchase order.
The court judgement notes that Jones was fully aware of this change in October.
But, instead of sticking to the campaign rules, Jones requested a quotation from the firm, and after he (or the candidate) had accepted the amount, they issued the company a purchase order number and then instructed an invoice to be made out to party HQ.
The Brexit Party was ordered to repay more than £22,000 to the advertising firm
The court judgement said: “From early December 2019, as the General Election approached, affairs within the defender’s organisation became increasingly chaotic; pressure upon candidates (and their campaign managers) mounted; and communication with Ms Stokes (to obtain approval of requested campaign expenditure) became slower and more difficult.”
Therefore, Jones decided to issue his own purchase order references to speed up the process.
The judgement continued: “Mr Jones did so in an effort to facilitate the candidates’ campaigns, and in the belief that the expenditure so instructed by him was unobjectionable and would, in due course, be approved and paid by the defender.”
There were two batches of orders, and the first, 10 invoices between 25 November 2019 and 5 December 2019, totalled £22,490.
The party then “without qualification or objection” paid seven of the first batch of invoices in full, which amounted to £15,080.
A further 18 invoices, between 6 December 2019 and 12 December 2019, were then issued by the firm for further candidate campaign advertising and services, which came to £18,870.
VMS Enterprises were owed £23,160 in unpaid invoices.
The Brexit Party was told to repay £22,020 relating to the invoices and £100 to VMS Enterprises under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act.
The court document revealed that the first time the advertising company was made aware of the fact Jones was not in a position to sign off on these purchases was in early January 2021 during a phone conversation with campaign manager Paul Oakden.
Oakden, former chairman of UKIP, then told the company in an email on 17 January 2020 that they would not be paying the outstanding amount because Jones had not stuck to expenditure rules and the Brexit party had no knowledge of the services provided.
In his summary, Sheriff Reid said: “The candidates had no actual authority, express or implied, to commit the political party to the contracts with the pursuer. Rather, by its conduct, the defender has clothed its candidates with merely the appearance of authority, where none truly existed.”
He added: “As regards the second line of defence, any illegality that may arise from the incurring of unauthorised campaign expenditure by or on behalf of the defender, as a registered political party, has no effect on the validity or enforceability of the related contracts by the pursuer as a third party creditor.”
Sheriff Reid therefore granted a decree in favour of VMS Enterprise. The Brexit Party was ordered to repay £22,020 relating to the invoices and £100 to the company under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act.