THE Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, could face a High Court
investigation over his involvement in the decision by Transport for
London (TfL) to ban an advertising campaign by the ex-gay group
Core Issues Trust.
The Trust had arranged for adverts to be displayed on buses in
April 2012 reading "Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud, get over
it", as a response to a similar campaign by the gay-rights group
Four days before the adverts were due to appear, The
Guardian ran a story on its website, resulting in significant
levels of criticism on the website, on social-media sites, and
direct to the Mayor's office.
Within hours, the advert had been pulled, and the court heard
that the Mayor's advisers briefed the press that the decision had
been taken by Mr Johnson, who was "strongly of the view that the ad
should not run".
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, ruled in the Court of
Appeal on Monday that TfL would have been right to ban the adverts
if the decision to do so was based on their advertising policy; but
he said that it would have been "unlawful" if the decision had been
taken "to further the mayor's political campaign".
At last year's High Court hearing, TfL argued that the decision
was taken by its communications director rather than the Mayor. The
court agreed, and ruled that the decision was lawful. New evidence
has since emerged through a Freedom of Information Act request,
which, Lord Dyson said, "raises a strong prima facie case" that the
decision was taken by Mr Johnson.
"There is now in evidence an email which...states that the Mayor
instructed TfL to pull the advertisement," Lord Dyson said.
The Court of Appeal ordered that the case should be re-heard by
the High Court, and that Mr Johnson, together with his deputy, and
his external-affairs director, should all be ordered to give
written evidence before the judge decides whether they should be
The fresh High Court hearing will decide only whether the
decision was taken lawfully. The Court of Appeal made it clear that
TfL could have reached the same outcome if it had followed proper
Stonewall advert hearing. A separate hearing
will be held to determine whether TfL were right to accept the
Stonewall advert. The Core Issues Trust had sought an injunction
after it was announced that Stonewall was to re-run the adverts
last year (News, 1
The Trust argued that the High Court had decided that the
Stonewall poster was also in breach of the TfL advertising policy;
but this claim was rejected by both Stonewall and TfL. In Monday's
judgment, Lord Dyson said that the High Court judge "did decide
that the Stonewall advertisement failed to comply with the
Lord Justice Briggs said that Stonewall's "Get over it" slogan
was "a confrontational message which is likely to come across to
many...as at least disrespectful of their sincerely held beliefs,
and, to some, as suggesting that there is no place for the
toleration of their beliefs in modern society".