Source close to Johnson: Not up to criminal law to regulate political speech - Daily Mail reporter

FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative Home fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters) - It is not the role of criminal law to regulate political speech, a source close to Boris Johnson was quoted as saying by a Daily Mail reporter, as the favourite to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May faces court over his comments on Brexit.

A judge ruled on Wednesday that Johnson must appear in court over allegations he lied about Brexit in the run-up to the 2016 referendum by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU.

“The decision to summon Boris Johnson is extraordinary. It is not the role of criminal law to regulate political speech,” the source said, according to Daily Mail deputy political editor John Stevens on Twitter.

“This runs counter to centuries of British political tradition and risks undermining our democracy.”

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William James; editing by Stephen Addison