In a feat of astonishing timing, leader of the pack of hopefuls to replace Prime Minister Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson has been summoned to court over a ‘”political stunt” crowdfunded private prosecution against him over the Brexit referendum.
The summons for former Mayor of London and British Foreign Secretary was granted by Westminster Magistrates’ Court District Judge Margot Coleman, who approved the request of the lawyers bringing a private prosecution that he be summoned to court. Mr Johnson’s team reject the allegations put forward and assert they are an attempt to use the courts to frustrate Brexit itself.
The Associated Press reported of the summons that while the allegations against Mr Johnson are unproven, it was “proper” to demand he attend court.
The private prosecution has been crowdfunded to the tune of £200,000 by a group calling themselves “Brexit Justice” and allege that Mr Johnson lied during the Brexit referendum by saying the United Kingdom pays the European Union £350 million a week. Campaign leader Marcus Ball, who is not a lawyer but is being supported in his bid to see Mr Johnson prosecuted by a team of barristers, alleges that Mr Johnson made statements that he “knew to be false”.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson has dismissed the case as a “political stunt” that is being “brought for political purposes”. The Daily Telegraph reports their comments rejecting the prosecution as:
The ‘Prosecutor’ (a limited company) is ‘Brexit Justice Limited’. Brexit Justice Limited is the product of a campaign to undermine the result of the Brexit referendum, and/or to prevent its consequences.
The company and this application owe their existence to the desire on the part of individuals such as Mr Ball to undermine the referendum result. The ‘Brexit justice’ which is ultimately sought is no Brexit.
Among a crowded field of would-be successors to Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Johnson is a perennial favourite as a Brexiteer with senior cabinet experience. This is despite the fact that at the last leadership race, Mr Johnson pulled out in the first round after his running mate Michael Gove decided to launch his own campaign for leadership. Ultimately, Theresa May emerged as the winner after all other candidates pulled out.
Fellow Conservative Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg has spoken out in defence of Mr Johnson and against the private prosecution, remarking: “The court should not be used for obviously political purposes. It is an abuse of the legal procedure… The judiciary should be exceptionally careful about involving themselves in political affairs. The courts should not be politics by any other means. It sets a dangerous precedent.”