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Campaigner loses bid to take fight over Johnson EU bus claim to Supreme Court

UK News | Published:

Marcus Ball attempted to bring a private prosecution against the Prime Minister over his claim the UK sends £350 million a week to the European Union.

Boris Johnson court case

A campaigner who tried to prosecute Boris Johnson over his EU referendum bus claim has lost a bid to take his legal fight to the Supreme Court.

Marcus Ball attempted to bring a private prosecution against the Prime Minister over his claim the UK sends £350 million a week to the European Union – which appeared on the side of a bus in the run up to the 2016 vote.

A decision to issue a summons was made by a district judge in May for Mr Johnson to attend Westminster Magistrates’ Court to face three allegations of misconduct in public office.

But the decision was ruled “unlawful” and quashed by High Court judges at a hearing in June.

Mr Ball’s legal team filed an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court over the ruling.

However, the application was thrown out on Wednesday by Lady Justice Rafferty – one of the High Court judges who quashed the original decision.

In a brief announcement, she said: “This application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is rejected.”

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Mr Ball now has the option to apply directly to the Supreme Court for permission.

Speaking outside court after the ruling, he said: “This isn’t over, we are not giving up.

“We are pursuing it, absolutely.”

The £350 million figure was emblazoned on the red campaign bus used by Vote Leave during the referendum, with the slogan saying “We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead”.

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Giving reasons for the High Court’s ruling in July, Lady Justice Rafferty said the “problem of false statements in the course of political campaigning is not new” and that Parliament had enacted laws to deal with “certain false campaign statements which it considers an illegal practice”.

However, she said this did not include false statements relating to publicly available statistics, and found that the district judge’s decision would have “extended the scope” of the offence of misconduct in a public office.

She also said it appeared that “there would have been no complaint” if Mr Johnson had used a figure of “£350 million per week gross, or £250 million per week net”.

In a statement, Mr Ball, who crowdfunded his case, said: “Let me remind everyone, this is a case of alleged misconduct in public office against the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom concerning repeated lies about the spending of the public purse.

“It concerns the duties of members of Parliament and mayors of London and as such goes to the heart of the United Kingdom’s democratic process and public trust in it.

“The case is a worldwide news story of immense public interest and it has been funded by 15,000 members of the public who have voluntarily paid for it.

“The offence of misconduct in public office has itself never come before the Supreme Court and is in great need of their attention and clarification.

“Yet, according to Lady Justice Rafferty these are not matters of public importance. Nothing to see here.”

He said his faith in the legal system had been “shattered” by the rejection, adding: “It is a green light for all public office holders to lie. It is a green light for the PM to lie.

“Police officers, army officers, judges, prison officers and all elected representatives are now legally permitted, under this ruling, to lie to the public.”

Mr Ball, who said he faces financial ruin after spending “in excess of £200,000” fighting the case, is considering options for continuing his legal battle – including a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, a challenge in the European Courts or another potential attempt to prosecute Mr Johnson.

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