Boris Johnson to appear in court over misconduct in public office allegations
Boris Johnson has been ordered to attend court over accusations of misconduct in a public office during the Brexit referendum.
A judge ruled there was a case to answer after a private prosecution was brought against the former Foreign Secretary.
Remain supporter Marcus Ball claims Mr Johnson - the favourite to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister - knowingly made false statements during the 2016 campaign about the amount of money the UK sends to the EU.
It is understood his accusation relates to the Vote Leave battlebus, which claimed the UK could afford to give the NHS an extra £350m a week after Brexit.
In a written judgement issued at Westminster Magistrates Court, District 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."
A source close to Boris Johnson said: "This prosecution is nothing less than a politically-motivated attempt to reverse Brexit and crush the will of the people.
"The claimant has openly admitted that his plan is to overturn the referendum via a legal challenge and he clearly intends to try and undermine the one man who can truly deliver Brexit. The decision to issue a summons is extraordinary, and flies in the face of hundreds of years of British democratic tradition.
"The claimant asserts that he is not motivated by politics. This is a blatant lie. He has written internet blogs, which have since been removed, disclosing his intention to stop Brexit and reverse the referendum via a court case. He is deeply dishonest about his intention - which is to frustrate the largest ever popular vote in British history.
"The decision to summon Boris Johnson is extraordinary. It is not the role of criminal law to regulate political speech. If this case is allowed to proceed then the state, rather than the public, will be put in charge of determining the strength of arguments at elections. This runs counter to centuries of British political tradition and risks undermining our democracy.”
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is backing the Uxbridge MP's leadership bid, told the Telegraph: "The court should not be used for obviously political purposes, it is an abuse of legal procedure.
"The courts should not be politics by other means, it sets a dangerous precedent."
But Lib Dem MP Ed Davey 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."
Meanwhile, a poll for the ConservativeHome website shows Mr Johnson has maintained his clear lead with party members.
It shows him on 33%, well ahead of second placed Dominic Raab, who is on 15% and Michael Gove on 12%.