Daily Mail

Do our courts now have one rule for the Left-wing mob – and quite another for conservati­ves?

As trio who terrorised IDS walk free...

- By Ross Clark

REMEMBER the case of 31-year-old Brexit campaigner John Murphy, jailed for 28 days in 2019 for throwing an egg at then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn while shouting at him to ‘respect the vote’?

I have no interest in defending Murphy, who got what he deserved. I can’t disagree with the Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, who sent him down with the words: ‘ These attacks on MPs must stop.’

We have had two MPs murdered in recent years, Labour’s Jo Cox and the veteran Conservati­ve Sir David Amess. It should be clear that MPs must be allowed to go about their business without being assaulted, however much you disagree with their views.

Only, this dictum doesn’t seem to apply if your cause is a Left-wing one and your quarry is former Conservati­ve leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, or ‘Tory Scum’ as was screamed at him, his wife and a friend as they walked through Manchester during last year’s party conference.

Duncan Smith was smacked on the head with a heavy traffic cone; an assault which must have been disturbing as well as painful.

He turned round to see three protesters hurling insults inches from his face and felt, as anyone would, to be under attack.

The three in question were Radical Haslam — yes, that’s his real name — a 29-year- old artist and poet who goes under the stage name ‘ Totally Radical dude’; Ruth Wood, 51, who runs a project for a homeless charity and sports a large tattoo on the front of her neck; and Elliot Bovill, 32, of no fixed address, who was accused of common assault, the wielder of the traffic cone.

Despite the judge accepting that Duncan Smith had been assaulted and despite a police officer indentifyi­ng Bovill, the CCTV evidence was deemed too ‘ weak’ to be absolutely sure. So Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring acquitted him along with two of the other thuggish trio on Tuesday.


He let go Haslam and Wood — both accused of threatenin­g behaviour — because he found their actions ‘ reasonable’ under their rights to protest. Sir Iain’s right not to be threatened or harassed didn’t seem to come into it.

As Duncan Smith himself said after the hearing, the ruling sends a powerful message that ‘no matter how threatenin­g the behaviour of protesters is, no action will be taken against them’. And many wonder why so few talented people want a political career nowadays, and why MPs don’t seem to want to carry on serving their constituen­ts for as long as their predecesso­rs did.

Remarkably, Duncan Smith says he was questioned at length while giving evidence about his policies while he was Welfare and Pensions Secretary during the coalition government — as if it was him on trial for decisions he made as a Government minister, rather than protesters on trial for assaulting and harassing him.

The Chief Magistrate’s reasoning seemed to be that he had made some unpopular decisions and should therefore expect to be set upon in the street.

But is there a far deeper malaise in our criminal justice system when it comes to protesters charged with violence, obstructio­n or other public order offences? There seems to be an emerging rule: if your cause chimes with enlightene­d opinion on the liberal-Left you will be treated with greater leniency than if it does not.

There were no lofty defences of the right to free speech from the police officers who visited Harry Miller, himself a former member of the force, at his home in Hull after he had been accused of ‘transphobi­a’.

What had he done? He had merely tweeted: ‘Transwomen are women. Anyone know where this new biological classifica­tion was first proposed and adopted?’

Happily, in that case the High Court later ruled that Humberside police had acted unlawfully, but not before Miller had had to bring an action against them to confirm his right to free speech.

What a difference compared with the activists from Extinction Rebellion and its offshoots Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil who for the past four years have been blocking roads and vandalisin­g buildings in their climate campaigns.

To begin with, police not only failed to clear them from the roads, they were filmed dancing with some of the protesters. During recent demonstart­ions on the M25 they have adopted a slightly more robust attitude, but even when protesters have been charged, courts have often treated them with inexplicab­le leniency.

Last April, six Extinction Rebellion activists were acquitted at Southwark Crown Court of spraying graffiti and smashing windows at Shell’s London HQ — in spite of a judge telling the jury they had no legal defence. One of them claimed, prepostero­usly, that he thought Shell’s employees and shareholde­rs would have consented to his actions.

Then there were the Colston Four, who in January were acquitted of causing damage to the statue of the slave trader and philanthro­pist Edward Colston, toppled in a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June 2020 — a time, by the way, when gatherings were supposed to be illegal under Covid lockdown rules.

During the case the judge allowed historian David Olusoga to give ‘evidence’ on slavery — effectivel­y turning what was supposed to be a case of vandalism against a statue into a trial of Edward Colston himself, even though he died 300 years ago.

Then there were the protesters who blocked a road leading to the ExCel centre in East London when it was hosting an arms trade fair. They were acquitted by a district judge who accepted their bizarre argument that by lying in the road they were preventing greater crimes like genocide.


Some of the equipment on show may well now be being used by Ukraine in defence of their country against Russian aggression. In the ExCel case, the Director of Public Prosecutio­ns appealed against the court’s decision and the protesters were convicted — before the Supreme Court then quashed the conviction­s.

Thanks to a combinatio­n of well-organised pressure groups and Left-wing lawyers — often funded with public money through legal aid — we are rapidly reaching a situation in which anyone who can claim to be supporting a Left-wing cause now seems to get away with pretty well anything.

Common assault, harassment, criminal damage, obstructio­n of the highway — all have been effectivel­y legalised in specific cases of Leftwing protesters.

But strangely, the same people who stand up for the rights of Left-wing protesters are only too happy to restrict the rights of protesters with conservati­ve views.

For months, Labour MPs have opposed the Public Order Bill on the grounds that its provisions — which include a ban on protesters ‘locking-on’ to objects to make it harder for police to remove them — would stifle the rights of people to protest.


Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, one of the leaders of the ‘Kill The Bill’ campaign, calls it ‘ draconian’ and says the Government is ‘clamping down on the ability of people to organise and defend our hard-won rights’.

That didn’t stop her and 157 other Labour MPs supporting an amendment to that very Bill last month which will make it an imprisonab­le offence for pro-life campaigner­s to stage any kind of protest within 150 metres of an abortion clinic.

This doesn’t just include harassment, which rightly should be illegal, but covers anyone who ‘ advises or persuades, attempts to advise or persuade, or otherwise expresses opinion’. Given the impossibil­ity of protesting without expressing an opinion, it is tantamount to criminalis­ing protest itself — something supposed to be guaranteed under the Human Rights Act.

In other words, it is one rule for people with conservati­ve opinions, another for those with Left-wing opinions.

We might have had a Conservati­ve government for the past 12 years, yet somehow the Left has managed to grab control of the criminal justice system with a vengeance.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom