(PM) — Following the U.K. Prime Minister’s resignation speech on May 24th outside 10 Downing Street, the race is on for the next leader of the Conservative Party to become Prime Minister.
With currently ten candidates, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the favorite to succeed Mrs. May. However, news recently broke that he is to face prosecution for three allegations of misconduct in public office.
The issue surrounds the 2016 pro-Brexit ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in which Mr. Johnson was a leading figure.
The campaign featured a bus that portrayed that the UK gave the European Union £350m a week which would be better spent on the National Health Service.
Mr. Johnson is alleged to have ‘deliberately misled the public’ by citing the £350m issue as fact, which the prosecution says was ‘both irresponsible and dishonest’. The timing of this could not have been worse for Mr. Johnson, with critics and fellow leadership contenders likely to use it against him.
The matter was brought as a private prosecution by Marcus Ball, a speaker and writer who founded a website called ‘Brexit Justice’.
Mr. Ball crowdfunded the private prosecution, raising £200,000.
He said before the case came to court “This is a world first; it has never happened before. A member of Parliament has never been prosecuted for misconduct in public office based upon alleged lying to the public”.
Lewis Power QC (Queens Counsel), told the hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court that the case against Mr. Johnson “…is concerned with one infamous statement: We send the EU £350m a week”.
Mr. Power added “The UK has never sent, given or provided £350m a week to Europe – that statement is simply not ambiguous”.
“Democracy demands responsible and honest leadership from those in public office” he said.
Mr. Johnson was not required to be present at the hearing and denies the offences.
Mr. Johnson’s representative Adrian Darbishire QC told the court that the case was a “stunt” and was about “the desire on the part of individuals, such as Mr. Ball, to undermine the referendum result”.
However, District Judge Margot Coleman said, “The applicant’s case is there is ample evidence that the proposed defendant knew that the statements were false”.
Judge Coleman ruled that there was sufficient evidence of a prima facie case against Mr. Johnson, which means the matter will proceed to trial.
She issued a summons for the Conservative MP to attend court at a later date.
That is unless the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Max Hill QC steps in to exercise his power of stopping the case, potentially citing the matter as ‘vexatious’ or on other grounds.
UPDATE: Boris Johnson responds to news of legal action.
*Porter Medium will be following this story as it develops, along with the UK leadership race.