19:29, December 02 108 0 theguardian.com

2020-12-02 19:29:04
Piers Corbyn found guilty of breaching regulations at lockdown protest

Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labour party leader, has been found guilty of breaching emergency health regulations at an anti-lockdown protest in London’s Hyde Park.

During the two-day trial in Westminster magistrates court, the 73-year-old weather forecaster and climate change denier argued that his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly had been illegally restricted.

Corbyn had denied two counts of participating in public gatherings of more than two people during the coronavirus emergency in Hyde Park on 16 Mayand 30 May.

He was convicted of an offence on the first date but acquitted on the later charge. District Judge Sam Goozee ruled that it was wrong for Corbyn to be charged with breaching the regulations on 30 May , because he had already been issued with a fixed-penalty notice earlier that day.

Finding him guilty on the first charge, Goozee said: “Without the regulations in place, your conduct would have been lawful. But the enforcement of regulations was necessary for public health.

“Police took a measured response. You, however, didn’t engage with police – police action in arresting you was necessary and proportionate.”

The judge gave Corbyn an absolute discharge – meaning he will not be fined or face any further punishment – after hearing that he had spent 12 hours in custody after being arrested.

David Povall, prosecuting, earlier told the court that the gathering near the park’s Speakers’ Corner on 16 May involved around 100 anti-lockdown protesters. Corbyn, of Southwark, south London, had taken part in the protests by “addressing the gathering and encouraging … others to gather around him to listen to what he was saying,” the court heard.

Povall said officers had adopted a “light-touch policing” approach by encouraging the gatherings to “disperse without the necessity for enforcement action”.

But Corbyn, he added, had “deliberately” participated in the gathering “by way of making public addresses” and that he allegedly “disregarded advice and directions from police over a sustained period”.

A video played to the court showed Corbyn using a megaphone to claim that Covid-19 “is not a pandemic” and argue that “if it carries on like this, we have a Big Brother society imposed upon us”.

But Ben Cooper, QC, representing Corbyn, told the court: “This case concerns a 73-year-old, law-abiding man, who attended Speakers’ Corner alone on two occasions to peacefully and exclusively express dissent through use of speech.

“Mr Corbyn attended to deliver a short speech, and he did so during a period of time when members of the public were permitted and indeed encouraged to go outdoors for a variety of other, banal purposes. A man of good character, Mr Corbyn spent a considerable amount of time in a police cell as a result.”

Cooper said police made no attempts to facilitate a safe protest consistent with public health regulations. A “blanket ban” on all demonstrations was not necessary for the legitimate aim of protection of public health, Cooper added.

On the second date, other protests, including a Black Lives Matter demonstration, had been allowed to go ahead, the court was told.

Addressing around two dozen supporters outside the court after the verdict, Corbyn raised his fist in the air and said: “We’ve had a tremendous result.”

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