London

Boris Johnson's gay bus advert ban to be investigated

The poster banned by Transport for London Image copyright The Core Issues Trust
Image caption The adverts claimed people could "get over" homosexuality

The banning of a London bus advert suggesting people could "get over" homosexuality should be investigated, the appeal court has ruled.

Christian charity The Core Issues Trust accused mayor Boris Johnson of unlawfully using his position as chairman of Transport for London to obtain the ban to secure the gay vote.

The High Court had upheld the ban.

But the Court of Appeal has now ruled a probe is needed to consider whether the mayor acted "for an improper purpose".

The posters produced by the Christian charity reading "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!" were designed in response to adverts by gay rights group Stonewall, which said "Some people are gay. Get over it!".

Reveal all emails

Last March, High Court judge Mrs Justice Lang rejected the charity's allegations, ruling the ban was lawful.

The charity claimed the mayor intervened and obtained the ban ahead of the 2012 mayoral elections to secure the gay vote.

Mr Johnson had decided the advert was "offensive to gays".

But, ruling on the charity's appeal, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said evidence had been produced of "an email which unequivocally states that the mayor 'instructed' TfL to pull the advertisement" just before the 2012 mayoral elections.

He said the need for examination of the role of the mayor was even greater because the email sent on 12 April 2012 "shows that the mayor's office contacted the Guardian (newspaper) immediately, apparently in order to make political capital out of the story".

Arrangements had also been made for the mayor to appear the following day at a hustings organised by Stonewall.

The judge said: "This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs."

Image copyright Stonewall
Image caption The advert by The Core Issues Trust was in response to Stonewall's campaign

He added it was "not possible to reach a conclusion" on whether TfL's decision was unlawful on the grounds that it was instructed by the mayor or made for an improper purpose.

Lord Dyson, who was sitting with Lord Justice Briggs and Lord Justice Christopher Clarke, called for Mrs Justice Long to reconsider her earlier decision based on the new evidence.

If after reconsideration "the judge decides that the decision was not instructed by the mayor and not made for an improper purpose, then her decision (upholding the ban) will stand, he said.

The judges made it clear TfL itself had a legal right in any event to impose a ban on the grounds the ad was likely to caused widespread or serious offence.

Lord Justice Briggs said if the High Court decided to quash the original decision, "TfL could nonetheless lawfully decide again to refuse to accept the Trust's advertisement".

'Great relief'

Dr Mike Davidson, who leads The Core Issues Trust, said he would write to the mayor to ask for all emails linked to the ban, "current and potentially deleted", to be made available to his lawyers.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which supported the trust, said: "In a mature democracy both sides of a debate should be heard but it seems that Boris Johnson, Transport for London and Stonewall are intent to shut down the Christian side of the debate by fair means or foul.

"It is a great relief that the Master of the Rolls has ruled to hold to account arbitrary use of the exercise of power by a public authority".

TfL said the advertisement breached its advertising policy and caused widespread offence to the public.

It added it would supply the court with any required further evidence.

The Mayor's official spokesman said Mr Johnson was pleased the decision to ban the advert had been upheld and that he agreed with TfL's ban at the time.

He said Mr Johnson would also "continue to support the banning of adverts that breach advertising policy and cause widespread public offence, as this advert clearly did".

Stonewall said it did not comment on ongoing investigations.

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