Piers Corbyn non-compliant when asked to leave anti-lockdown protest, court told
Piers Corbyn was “non-compliant” with police and used a megaphone to “talk over” officers asking him to leave anti-lockdown protests in central London in May, a court was told.
Corbyn, 73, of East Street, Southwark, south London, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday for the start of his trial for allegedly breaching coronavirus restrictions in Hyde Park earlier this year.
The weather forecaster, and brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, denies two counts of participating in a gathering in public of more than two people in England during the coronavirus emergency period.
Prosecutor David Povall told the court that the gatherings near the park’s Speakers Corner on May 16 and May 30 featured about a hundred or more people and could be characterised as “anti-lockdown”, with those present “engaged in a protest concerning issues around coronavirus and the coronavirus regulations”.
He said that on each occasion Corbyn had allegedly taken part in the protests by “addressing the gathering and encouraging by his presence and his actions others to gather around him to listen to what he was saying”.
Officers had adopted a “light touch policing” approach by encouraging the gatherings to “disperse without the necessity for enforcement action”, Mr Povall said.
Mr Povall said Corbyn had “deliberately” participated in the gatherings “by way of making public addresses” and that he allegedly “disregarded advice and directions from police over a sustained period”.
Body-worn police camera footage of the May 16 incident was played in court, which showed an officer approach Corbyn to ask him to leave the area.
The video 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”.
He could also be heard to say “stop interrupting me” when being spoken to by an officer.
Corbyn was shown to be handcuffed and led away surrounded by a group of police officers, while people could be heard chanting “shame on you”.
Mr Povall told the court that the protest had been “peaceful and generally good humoured” and highlighted that Corbyn had been “courteous and co-operative” with officers after his second arrest.
Giving evidence in court, Police Constable Necla Diker said she had arrested Corbyn as a “last resort” on May 16 after failing to get his details to issue a fixed penalty notice.
“I felt that he was ignoring me,” she said.
She said there was a “large number of people surrounding me”, adding: “I felt that if I didn’t enforce the arrest things would get out of hand.”
Under cross-examination from Corbyn’s lawyer, Ben Cooper QC, she was questioned about guidance given to officers on how they should engage with protesters.
He said its contents suggested “not jumping in” with an arrest “prematurely” and asked Pc Diker if she accepted she “didn’t follow this guidance”.
“No, I don’t accept that,” the officer replied.
She added: “I tried to speak to Mr Corbyn, I tried to explain what I was doing, I wasn’t getting anywhere.”
During his questioning, Mr Cooper also said Corbyn had “suffered injuries to his hands” from being handcuffed.
Earlier on Friday, Corbyn’s lawyers made two unsuccessful attempts to have his case dismissed through “abuse of process” applications.
Mr Cooper first argued that there was a “misrepresentation” by the prosecution relating to its disclosure of case material at a previous court hearing in October.
He secondly alleged that Corbyn was subject to an “arbitrary application of the law by police” and targeted in a “discriminatory way” when officers enforced coronavirus regulations.
But District Judge Samuel Goozee rejected both applications, finding for the first that there was “no evidence of bad faith” nor of the court “being deliberately misled” and that he was not persuaded the “mishandling” of material amounted to an abuse of process.
During proceedings the judge said he had been alerted by police that footage taken inside the court building had been uploaded online.
He ordered a woman in the courtroom’s public gallery to speak to a police officer present to confirm the footage was taken down from Facebook, with the officer later confirming it had.
But court staff informed the judge that another individual, not at court, had shared the video on Twitter, with it being retweeted.
The judge issued a warning that the court would “take action” if people were found to be making recordings, with it being dealt with as a contempt of court.
Corbyn, who appeared in court wearing a blue shirt with a burgundy tie underneath a dark-coloured suit jacket, was again granted unconditional bail as proceedings were adjourned until December 2.
Speaking outside court, he called on his supporters to turn up to his next appearance on Wednesday, also urging them to attend anti-lockdown protests over the weekend.