LONDON - Boris Johnson will be hauled to court to face accusations of misconduct in a public office over comments he made in the build-up to the EU Referendum, a court has ruled today.
The Tory leadership candidate was accused of lying when he said the UK gave the EU £350 million a week and should 'spend it on the NHS instead' and could now face a crown court trial accused of criminal conduct.
If found guilty he could face more than six months in prison.
It also raised the possibility he could be forced to appear in court while serving as Prime Minister and trying to negotiate Brexit with the EU.
Lawyers representing entrepreneur and anti-Brexit campaigner Marcus Ball, 29, successfully argued a private prosecution should be heard over allegations the 54-year-old made statements he 'knew to be false' while serving as an MP and Mayor of London before the referendum, and then again in the run-up to the 2017 General Election.
Mr Ball launched a 'Brexit Justice' campaign in 2016 after accusing Mr Johnson of 'abusing public trust' over the comments. He then raised the cash for the private prosecution by crowdfunding £370,000 through various websites.
Initially Brexit Justice wanted to bring action against six 'remain and leave campaigners' but after reviewing evidence the campaign decided Mr Johnson was the only person who could be prosecuted. The others have not been identified.
Mr Johnson, who is currently the favourite among the 11 Tory candidates, had argued District Judge Margot Coleman should dismiss the case at Westminster Magistrates' Court, branding it a 'political stunt to undermine Brexit'.
No date has been set for a crown court appearance but, with a new Tory leader due to be in place by the end of July, it means Mr Johnson could face trial while Prime Minister.
With months often separating a first court appearance and a subsequent trial it is quite possible that the full hearing with a jury would not be ready to start until after the new leader is in place.
Mr Johnson has long been the favourite to succeed Mrs May, who announced she would step down last week after her Brexit failures.
But he is facing stiff competition from other leading figures including Michael Gove, whose odds have shortened dramatically since he announced he was running.(FA)