Two High Court judges this morning threw out a private prosecution of Conservative leadership front-runner Boris Johnson MP for alleged misconduct in public office. In The Queen on the application of Johnson v Westminster Magistrates Court, Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Supperstone granted an application to quash a summons granted by a district judge.
Reasons will be given at a later date, the judges said.
Johnson had argued that the crowd-funded prosecution for three alleged offences concerning the EU referendum campaign was vexatious.
Last month District Judge Margot Coleman said she was satisfied there was prima facie evidence of an issue to be determined at trial.
The applicant, Marcus Ball, alleged that, during two periods between 2016 and 2017, Johnson ‘repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership, expressly stating, endorsing or inferring that the cost of EU membership was £350 million per week’.
Johnson described the application as ‘a political stunt’. It ‘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.’
Andrew Smith, partner at London criminal firm Corker Binning, said today's decisio marks the end of the road for the prosecution. 'If the High Court hadn’t quashed the summons, the CPS would surely have intervened to discontinue it for public interest reasons.'
He noted that 'Legally, there is no election-specific statutory offence of providing false or misleading information, except in relation to a candidate’s character or conduct. Marcus Ball therefore had to rely on misconduct in public office, an ill-defined common law offence, much criticised by law reform bodies. The High Court was clearly not satisfied that the district judge had applied this law correctly – and frankly to prosecute a politician for making allegedly false or misleading claims during a political campaign would have been not only legally remarkable but without precedent.'