Boris Johnson to face court hearing over bus advert ban

Published 10 December 2013  |  

The High Court battle between Stonewall and the Core Issues Trust takes another turn this morning, as Boris Johnson and his communications director are called to explain new evidence.

After a Freedom of Information request by the trust, an email trail has been uncovered that was not disclosed in the original High Court hearing in March. It appears to reveal that the Mayor of London was directly involved with the decision to pull the Anglican Mainstream adverts on London buses that read "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!".

The initial ruling in March by Ms Justice Lang declared that although the banning procedure was "procedurally unfair, in breach of [Transport For London's] own procedures and demonstrated a failure to consider the relevant issues" the banning of the adverts was legitimate, because of other pressing issues, specifically that it would "cause grave offence" to the gay community.

The Anglican Mainstream adverts were to run in response to advertisements from the pro-gay charity Stonewall, which read "Some people are gay, get over it".

The ruling stated that Stonewall's advertisements should also be banned also, as Ms Justice Lang said they were "highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians and other religious groups whose religious belief is that homosexuality is contrary to God's teachings".

Despite this ruling however, Stonewall re-ran the adverts on buses in October this year, prompting the Core Issues Trust to seek an emergency judicial review, until the appeal was heard in December.

In the initial judgement, Ms Justice Lang commented on the lack of evidence presented from the office of the Mayor of London. She highlighted that if Boris Johnson's electoral prospects had in anyway motivated the decision, it would make the case substantially different.

"But if the motive for the decision was to advance Mr Johnson's election campaign, at the expense of a proper exercise of TfL's powers and duties, this would call into question the lawfulness of the decision," she said.

Although Ms Justice Lang doubted that an appeal would succeed, she agreed with the existence of "compelling reasons" to allow one to go ahead, as the case "concerns interference with the right to freedom of expression which is a matter of such fundamental importance that it merits consideration by the appellant court".

In the case in March, the Transport for London's spokesman, Vernon Everitt claimed that the decision had been entirely his "although the Mayor had made his views clear and I was aware of them, I made the decision".

However, the text of the following email from Guto Harri, the Mayor's Communications Director at the time, would seem to suggest otherwise. The message read, "Boris has just instructed tfl to pull the adverts [and] I've briefed the guardian [who] will break that news in next half hour."

Dr Mike Davidson, Director of Core Issues Trust has said: "I firmly believe that had Lady Justice Lang seen the undisclosed correspondence, she would have reached a different conclusion about the Mayor's motivation and role in banning the adverts."

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, says: "This case reveals how far the political elite is prepared to go to pander to the homosexual agenda.

"When the Mayor of London and his most senior media adviser fail to provide crucial evidence in an email trail to the High Court, then freedom of speech is under serious threat."

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