Boris Johnson’s court summons appeal initially assigned to Mrs Justice Thornton — wife of former Labour leader Ed Miliband

By on

High Court judge recuses herself due to ‘political connection’, according to report

Image credits: 39 Essex Chambers and Wiki Commons

The challenge to the private prosecution of Tory heavyweight Boris Johnson reportedly suffered a minor delay this week after Mrs Justice Thornton (Justine Thornton), wife of former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, was assigned to hear Johnson’s appeal.

As reported by Legal Cheek, Prime Minister-hopeful Johnson was summoned last week to appear in court to face accusations he lied during the Brexit referendum campaign by saying that Britain gave £350 million a week to the EU. The decision came after businessman-turned-crowdfunding campaigner, Marcus Ball, launched a private prosecution against Johnson.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

In a further strange twist to this already bizarre story, The Sun newspaper reports that when Johnson’s legal team lodged a judicial review application to challenge the summons issued to him, the judge on duty at the time was none other than Dame Justine Thornton QC.

The Cambridge-educated barrister and newly-appointed judge is reported to have recused herself from presiding over the case due to her “political connection”. The newspaper claims the freaky coincidence has “slightly delayed” Johnson’s appeal.

A spokesman for the judiciary told Legal Cheek:

“When the application was lodged last Friday, Mrs Justice Thornton was the duty judge. She recused herself from hearing the application. The case was then put before the Judge in charge of the Administrative Court, who decided that it required an urgent oral hearing, which has been scheduled for Friday this week. There has been no delay.”

The former foreign secretary’s legal team argue that the summons issued to him last week by district judge Coleman was unlawful. Ball, who has crowdfunded more than £300,000, confirmed that he will fight the judicial review request.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Right call.




Johnson is a coward.


For not mocking the clearly disturbed in open court.


He’s a something beginning with c for sure.

Mr. Charles

Why is the fact she is “cambridge educated” any relevance?


So we know she is better than us


Since when has relevance meant anything on legal cheek?


it shows she’s cleverer than people who went to UCL x


If anything she’s an educational diversity checklist tick… went to one of those new universities.


Top bantz.

Gwyn Evans

Our legal system is mad. Everyone with a pulse knows that Johnson was lying. Not only that but he is a proved serial liar. Why is he allowed to string out a process where the facts are not in doubt?


“As a general principle, if the argument refers to the first limb of abuse, it will normally be necessary for the defence to prove not only that an abuse has taken place but that the accused has been prejudiced in the presentation of his or her case as a result, so that a fair trial is no longer possible.” …by Marcus Ball repeatedly implied or otherwise claiming that Boris Johnson ‘lied’, and the ‘experienced’ District Judge in Westminster Magistrates trying to be clever by agreeing to Marcus’s request that her ‘judgment’ be published.


In Crawley [2014] EWCA Crim 1028, the Court of Appeal clearly set out the scope of the two potential limbs that a stay for abuse of process can be brought under:

(1) Where the court concludes that the accused can no longer receive a fair hearing – This focuses on the trial process itself;

(2) Where it would be unfair to try the accused or, put another way, where a stay is necessary to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system – This is where the Court considers that the accused should not be standing trial at all, irrespective of the potential fairness of the trial itself.

Very difficult for Marcus to argue in the Divisional Court on Friday that his own conduct (including his ITN/ITV News interview on Tuesday) does not in fact render a fair trial impossible. The accused is arguing that the case is unlawful outright, so ‘unfairness’ (the second limb) probably would need not be raised.


“Where the facts are not in doubt”… ever heard of ‘trier of fact’?!


What a weird comment.


What a weird comment about how stitching-up someone for a loaded, unfair criminal trial is perfect alright, as long as he is Boris Johnson… nurse!


And you do realise AS A POINT OF LAW that Marcus Ball cannot claim Boris Johnson lied (and it will be considered inadmissible), only the judge or the jury AS THE TRIER OF FACT can decide on that?!


As a point of fact, Marcus Ball has, and can, claim Boris Johnson lied. Only the Judge or Jury, as the trier of fact, can determine whether that amounts to a criminal act and whether, if a criminal act has been committed, Boris Johnson is indeed guilty or not-guilty.


No, he can’t. ‘Prejudice’. If a CPS lawyer did that, on social media or on the local news, it would be called prosecutorial misconduct. Any conviction resulting from this will be ‘unsafe’ and will be successfully appealed in the COA.


“Lies, damned lies: Abuse of process and the dishonest litigant” (26 October 2012) from Lord Reed, Deputy President of the Supreme Court… evidently you had not read it prior to emptying your ill-digested thoughts here.

Your claim of your so-called ‘point of fact’: “A leading question is one that implies the answer or assumes facts that are likely to be in dispute.” (MOJ: Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures; March 2011)

Boris Johnson’s defence can claim “inherently prejudicial conduct (therefore rendering a fair trial impossible)” if Marcus Ball’s team were to go down this “Lying” road in court.


“Whether that amounts to a criminal act”… except there is no such a thing as a general (blanket or catch-all) crime or offence of or called ‘Lying’ in English law. Perjury is. Making a false declaration is. Lying is not. The courts cannot to in effect make up NEW common law offences and apply them retrospectively.

That the word ‘Lying’ is deliberately tossed about (evidenced by the so-called ‘Judgment’ (which isn’t a judgment) published by order of Westminster Magistrates) is a deliberately cynical attempt to prejudice Boris Johnson from being able to receive a fair future trial (hence the almost-likely-successful appeal tomorrow).

Anyway, for any Crown Court or the High Court to delve into “whether that amounts to a criminal act”…

“Absolute privilege attaches to those matters which, either because they are part of proceedings in Parliament OR BECAUSE THEY ARE NECESSARILY CONNECTED TO THOSE PROCEEDINGS, are subject to Parliament’s sole jurisdiction or “exclusive cognisance”.”

The High Court would be bound to remind Marcus Ball and his team, that the ONUS is up to them, and not Boris Johnson and his defence, to prove and satisfy the court that what Boris Johnson said were and are not ‘necessarily connected’.

You speaks more like one of those overactive Jack-of-all-trades Twitter barristers with no actual prosecutory/criminal law background!


All the above is academic now as the High Court ruled in BoJo’s favour about 10 minutes ago


It is NEVER ‘academic’… case law.

Marcus (instructing Lewis Power QC or otherwise) might also want to make an application to appeal this upwards, ‘contemporaneously’ or at a later date. Who knows, he might even be able to talk Dinah Rose QC and Gareth Peirce QC into acting pro Bono for him!

Join the conversation

Related Stories