Daily Mail

MPs are fair game now – IDS hits out as ‘Tory scum’ protesters go free

- By James Tozer and Richard Marsden

FORMER Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith was last night ‘astonished’ after protesters who harangued him and his wife as ‘Tory scum’ walked free from court.

Paul Goldspring, chief magistrate for England and Wales, cleared two defendants accused of intimidati­ng Sir Iain, his wife and a friend during last year’s Conservati­ve Party conference, saying their behaviour was a ‘reasonable’ use of their right to protest.

A third suspect accused hitting Sir Iain with a traffic cone was also acquitted. Giving evidence this week, Lady Duncan Smith described the atmosphere as they walked to a fringe event in Manchester where he was speaking as ‘quite worrying’.

And Sir Iain said he feared for his companions as they were followed and insulted for around half a mile last October.

He said he turned around after a traffic cone was ‘smacked down’ on his head to tell the group: ‘You are pathetic.’

The 68-year-old said yesterday’s decision sent out a message that politician­s were ‘fair game’. He told the Daily Mail: ‘Seemingly you can now walk down the street screaming abuse at me, and your right to protest trumps my right not to be intimidate­d. No matter how threatenin­g the behaviour of protesters is, no action will be taken against them.’

Mr Goldspring acquitted a man named as Radical Haslam, 29, of Salford, and Ruth Wood, 51, of Cambridge, of using threatenin­g, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Former Greenpeace activist Elliot Bovill, 32, was also cleared of the traffic cone attack due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Goldspring said the case against Haslam and Wood centred on the use of the phrase ‘Tory scum’ as they followed Sir Iain and the two women. He said using that phrase was ‘both insulting and pejorative’. But he accepted their behaviour was ‘reasonable’ in the context of Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act – the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and associatio­n.

Wood, who manages a project for a homelessne­ss charity, told the Manchester Magistrate­s’ Court: ‘There was nothing particular­ly threatenin­g about what we were doing.’ Haslam, who said he was a general artist and student, added he saw it as an ‘opportunit­y to have my voice heard’.

Sir Iain highlighte­d how the incident took place just 11 days before fellow Tory MP Sir David Amess was murdered by an Islamist terrorist, which prompted calls for politician­s’ security to be stepped up.

He said that in stark contrast yesterday’s acquittals meant ‘every MP and public servant is now fair game’.

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 ?? ?? Acquitted: Radical Haslam, Ruth Wood and Elliot Bovill leaving court yesterday
Acquitted: Radical Haslam, Ruth Wood and Elliot Bovill leaving court yesterday

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