Tory MP and Number Ten hopeful Boris Johnson is up before the beak on charges of lying to the electorate.

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Boris Johnson is due to appear in court to face charges that he lied to the electorate during the run up to the 2016 EU Referendum and the 2017 General Election.

This all revolves around the claim written on the side of the Vote Leave Brexit battle bus that the UK sent £350 million a week to the European Union.

The contention of those bringing this private prosecution is that this was an untruth and that Boris lied by repeatedly claiming it during those campaigns.

Lawyers for Marcus Ball, who is bringing this case forward and has reportedly crowd-funded up to £400,000 to fund it, laid the case before Westminster Magistrates Court district judge, Margot Coleman last week.

The judge has now ruled that:

"The allegations which have been made are unproven accusations and I do not make any findings of fact.

"Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted.

"The charges are indictable only.

"This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the crown court for trial. The charges can only be dealt with in the crown court."

She also said in her reasoning that:

"… in a televised interview in May 2016 the proposed defendant stated, 'we send the EU £10 billion per year' and that therefore he knew that the £350 million per week figure (£20 billion per year) was incorrect."

As I understand it the crime alleged is one of misconduct in public office, where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Now I don't know, but I wonder if Mr Ball went to the police first to report it as a crime, as that would have been the cheaper option because the public would have picked up the tab through the police and Crown Prosecution Service – so no need for crowd funding.

If he did go to the police, then they obviously thought they would not be able to get a conviction otherwise I would presume Boris Johnson would have been arrested.

Or maybe the CPS thought it not in the public interest to go through with a prosecution.

Team Boris is calling this a political stunt and his Barrister, Adrian Darbyshire QC, told the court:

"The application represents an attempt, for the first time in English legal history, to employ the criminal law to regulate the content and quality of political debate. That is self-evidently not the function of the criminal law."

I've had a quick trawl through the CPS guidance on this crime and it does appear that there is a pretty high bar to get over to prove it.

But if he is found guilty as charged, then it's gonna shut down political debate and interviewing quite a bit. As every serving politician that appeared on a politics programme or Question Time would have to bring a lawyer and accountant along with them to consult with, prior to answering any questions.

And now there is the matter of the claims made in the run up to the EU referendum by such worthies as David Cameron, The former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England to look at as well, isn't there?

And if people making the same sort of claims about actually leaving as they did about the effect of voting to leave, while using the same type of data to base those claims on hoping that they can convince people to Remain in the EU – could that be construed as lying?

And talking of misconduct in public office, if the Robin Tilbrook case succeeds against Theresa May's mismanagement of the extension to the Article 50 process – then we'll be smokin'!

But as Tory MP David Davies Tweeted out:

"Deeply sinister that Brexiteers like ⁦@BorisJohnson⁩ face being dragged into court. EU supporters falsely claimed that a leave vote would collapse the economy. No action being taken against them.."

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/29/boris-johnson-appear-court-eu-referendum-misconduct-claims

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/misconduct-public-office

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