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British PM-hopeful Boris Johnson summoned to court over false claim

The crowd-funded legal case was brought against Johnson for claiming that the UK paid £350 million per week to Brussels as part of his pro-Brexit appeal to voters.

world Updated: May 29, 2019 18:55 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Boris Johnson,Theresa May,Westminster Magistrates Court
Boris Johnson faces three allegations of misconduct in public office.(REUTERS PHOTO)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May as prime minister, was on Wednesday summoned by the Westminster Magistrates Court to face an accusation of misconduct in public office over claims that he lied during the 2016 EU referendum.

The crowd-funded legal case was brought against Johnson for claiming that the UK paid £350 million per week to Brussels as part of his pro-Brexit appeal to voters.

Johnson faces three allegations of misconduct in public office, between February 21, 2016 and June 23, 2016 (until the referendum) and April 18, 2017 to May 3, 2017 during the mid-term general election.

Judge Margot Coleman said: “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.”

The development is likely to damage Johnson’s prospects in the forthcoming Conservative party leadership contest, which will be triggered after May resigns on June 7. There is also speculation that he may drop out of the race. He is among several candidates for the post, including home secretary Sajid Javid and environment secretary Michael Gove .

The £350 million figure was used by the pro-Brexit Vote Leave group throughout the referendum campaign on the side of a red bus, calling for the UK to “fund our NHS instead”. Johnson was among its lead campaigners, including Gove and Priti Patel, MP.

The court ruling prompted renewed criticism of Johnson.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “Boris Johnson shamefully and deliberately lied about the cost of EU membership for personal and political gain. Regardless of what happens in court, this charlatan should never be allowed to become PM.”

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat MP, said: “Given Boris Johnson wants to be the next prime minister of this country, it’s only right that he is held accountable for the lies he told in 2016. Boris Johnson has never had to rely on these vital public services. That’s why he doesn’t care about the impact of his campaign slogans”.

First Published: May 29, 2019 17:55 IST