Mercy me, a politician lied during a political campaign. We cannot have that can we?
Let’s crowdfund a private prosecution!
As absurd as that sounds, that’s what’s happening in the UK as Boris Johnson to Appear in Court over Brexit Misconduct Claims.
Boris Johnson has been summoned to court to face accusations of misconduct in public office over comments made in the run-up to the EU referendum.
The ruling follows a crowdfunded move to launch a private prosecution of the MP, who is the frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest.
Johnson lied and engaged in criminal conduct when he repeatedly claimed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign that the UK sent £350m a week to Brussels, lawyers for a 29-year-old campaigner, who launched the prosecution bid, told Westminster magistrates court last week.
A legal team assembled by Marcus Ball, who has accused the former foreign secretary of misconduct in public office and raised more than £200,000 to finance the prosecution, laid out their case in front of the district judge, Margot Coleman.
The case concerned the “now infamous claim” by Johnson about the £350m, according to Lewis Power QC, who said the case was not about preventing or delaying Brexit.
Making False Statements
In her written decision summoning Johnson to court, District Judge Margot Coleman also said: “The applicant’s case is there is ample evidence that the proposed defendant knew that the statements were false.”
“I am satisfied there is sufficient to establish prima facie evidence of an issue to be determined at trial of this aspect. I consider the arguments put forward on behalf of the proposed defendant to be trial issues.”
Private Prosecution by a Crowdfunded Company
Bear in mind this is a private prosecution by a nonprofit crowdfunded company, ‘Brexit Justice Limited’.
In an extraordinary development, the favourite to win the Tory leadership race faces a private prosecution by campaigner Marcus Ball.
Lawyers representing Mr Ball lodged an application to summon Mr Johnson to court, claiming he had deliberately misled the public during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 and then repeated the statement during the 2017 general election.
Mr Johnson strongly denies any wrongdoing, claiming the application was a “[political] stunt” designed to “undermine the referendum result”.
“The reality of this enterprise is different. 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.”
Mr Ball has raised more than £200,000 through a ‘Brexit Justice’ crowdfunding campaign to pay for the private prosecution.
Finally, please consider the Legal Harassment of Boris Johnson Reeks of Remainer Despotismby Andrew Lilico.
Will David Cameron then be arrested for having said he would trigger Article 50 immediately following the election? Will George Osborne be taken to court for claiming a vote to leave would mean an emergency budget raising taxes and accompanied by interest rate hikes?
It shouldn’t matter to this discussion, but it’s also quite wrong to claim that the “£350 million sent to Brussels” claim was a lie.
The most straightforward of these is that that was indeed approximately the UK’s gross contribution to the EU budget. It just was. Saying “Ah, but we get a rebate” misses a fundamental point: the rebate is paid to the UK by the member states, not by the EU. The EU does not give us a discount on our membership fee; rather the member states pay us something in return.
If I send Fred £350 million per week, and then Jane and Eliza send me £100 million per week, that does not change the fact that I send Fred £350 million per week. It does mean that saying “I send Fred £350 million per week” is not the whole story, but it is not a lie.
Second, the £350 million claim is not a lie because in fact even when one takes the wider context into account, it’s roughly the correct amount. Critics of the figure say it neglects the rebate. But that criticism neglects the supposed accumulated “liabilities” that we’ve become aware of as the “divorce bill”. A little over half the £40 billion or so “divorce bill” takes that form. If we spread £23 billion in such “liabilities” over five years and add the weekly sum of that to the £250 million or so weekly sum, net of the rebate, then we come to about £340 million per week “sent to Brussels” as an overall net figure.
So it’s just wrong to call the £350 million figure a lie. It is not a “lie” in any sense. It is not a lie in that it was the literal amount, and it’s not a lie in that it was the overall amount once one took everything into consideration.
Imagine taking Trump or Obama to the courts for lying. How about Hillary? Any Senator from any party?
Theoretically, there could be some merit to the idea if applied uniformly. Nearly all politicians are liars.
But what about CNN, the Washington Post, etc., etc., and all their fake news?
The downside is obvious. The courts would not have time to do anything but prosecute liars.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock