Boris Johnson court summons quashed in 'misconduct' case over Leave campaign claims

PUBLISHED: 13:15 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:39 07 June 2019

Boris Johnson is one of the candidates to be the new prime minister. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson is one of the candidates to be the new prime minister. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

2019 Getty Images

High court judges have thrown out the misconduct case against Boris Johnson over 'misleading' Leave campaign slogans, after his barristers argued that false statements "must be as old as political campaigning itself".

Private prosecutor Marcus J Ball. Photograph: Supplied.Private prosecutor Marcus J Ball. Photograph: Supplied.

The case, brought by private prosecutor Marcus Ball, claimed that Johnson misled the public with the slogan "We send the EU £350 million a week" that was written on the side of a Vote Leave campaign bus in 2016.

District judge Margot Coleman issued Johnson a court summons last week, saying it was a "proper case".

However, Johnson called for a judicial review which today succeeded in quashing the summons.

READ: Boris Johnson to receive court summons over £350 million Brexit campaign claim

Johnsons did not attend court for the hearing, which was held by High Court judges Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Supperstone.

Johnson's barrister Adrian Darbishire QC said the alleged offence did not constitute misconduct in public office.

"Standing on the hustings is not the exercise of state power, and doing something naughty on the hustings is not capable of being an abuse of state power."

The making of false statements "must be as old as political campaigning itself" and that Johnson's use of the £350 million figure could not be characterised as misconduct.

He earlier claimed that Coleman had "erred in law" and that this is "an area of public life that has never previously been subject to the attentions of the criminal law".

Johnson had exercised no "official power" and made "no claims to special knowledge" of the UK's EU spending, saying that the £350 million figure was, and still is, up for public debate.

"It is abundantly clear that this prosecution is motivated by a political objective and has been throughout," he added.

But Ball's representative Jason Coppell QC said that there was ample evidence that Johnson knew the £350 million claim to be false, and that Ball's motivation of holding a politician to account in an important public issue is "entirely proper".

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Ball said: "We have to wait and see the reasons for their (the judges') decision.

"When we have those reasons I'm going to make a decision as to what to do next."

"We have just given the green light for every politician to lie to us about our money forever. That is a terrifying idea."

He continued: "You don't have the right to lie to the public about how their money is being spent."

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He added: "I would ask you, please, all members of parliament, all elected representatives, understand: you cannot lie to the public about their money."

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