Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been found guilty of breaching coronavirus restrictions at an anti-lockdown protest in London’s Hyde Park.
Corbyn, of Southwark, denied participating in a public gathering of more than two people in England during the coronavirus emergency period but was convicted after a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.
Earlier today, the judge had thrown out an additional charge of breaching coronavirus restrictions against the anti-lockdown protester.
District Judge Sam Goozee said it was wrong for Corbyn, 73, to be charged with a count of breaching coronavirus rules during a gathering at Hyde Park in London on May 30, because he had already been issued with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) earlier that day.
Defence counsel Ben Cooper QC cited a subsection of coronavirus rules that said no proceedings can be taken against someone issued with a FPN until 28 days after it was handed out.
The trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday heard Covid sceptic Corbyn was issued with an FPN at just before 1pm, and was charged later that evening.
Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is accused of breaching Covid rules during anti-lockdown protests at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park in May
The 73-year-old has denied participating in a gathering in public of more than two people in England during coronavirus emergency period
Prosecutors said the notice given to Corbyn was not a FPN.
But the judge ruled otherwise, and said the defence had no case to answer in relation to that charge.
Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: ‘Thank you, your honour.’
He remains on trial accused of a solitary count of breaching restrictions, relating to a separate gathering on May 16, also at Hyde Park.
The court was told earlier that the two gatherings near Speakers Corner in Hyde Park on May 16 and May 30 were attended by 100 or more people.
This morning the arresting officer, PC Thomas Pearson, took to the stand to give evidence after body-worn video footage of the incident was played to the court.
During evidence, the officer accepted he had issued the notice. Despite arguments from the prosecution that the document was only a ‘piece of paper.. reporting one for a penalty for an offence’, a judge decided it counted as an FPN.
Judge Sam Coozee, said: ‘The reality is that we have a police officer who says he issued a fixed penalty notice, says so in body-worn video, and repeats it in his statement.
‘It’s referred to as an FPN on numerous occasions on the footage. The document which is exhibited appears incomplete but is headed ‘Penalty Notice for Covid 19’.
‘For all intents and purposes I have to make a finding of fact that that’s a fixed penalty notice.
‘So in relation to the offence of May 30 I find no case to answer.’
Corbyn sat in front of the dock wearing a grey suit, blue shirt and red tie, and jotted down notes as Ben Cooper, QC, claimed his arrest was politically motivated.
Eight members of Corbyn’s group, Stand Up X, sat at the back of the socially distanced court to support the controversial weather forecaster while others were told to wait outside.
They refused to stand when District Judge Sam Goozee entered the room at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
He addressed his supporters and other people gathered outside court before going the hearing today
Corbyn, of East Street, Southwark, appeared at court last week to deny the two counts against him
Police body-worn footage showsn in court this morning showed the former Labour leader’s brother surrounded by enthusiastic supporters at Speakers’ Corner on 30 May.
The conspiracy theorist was heard saying ‘well thank you for listening officer’ as PC Thomas Pearson warned him: ‘You need to go home or you will be arrested.’
PC Pearson told the court he was there to ‘engage, explain, and encourage’ with protestors – and as a last resort, to ‘enforce’ the law.
‘The engagement phase had already taken place,’ added the officer.
Mr Cooper asked: ‘Is it because of this policy you chose to issue him with a Fixed Penalty Notice?’
‘You asked Mr Corbyn to leave, then you moved straight from that to enforcement by issuing him with a FIxed Penalty Notice.’
The officer replied: ‘It was almost impossible to explain and encourage because he was using a megaphone – it was difficult to have a conversation.
‘I think I explained for a period of time, the reason why he needed to go home.’
Pointing at the footage, the barrister asked: ‘Do you hear there that Mr Corbyn is explaining he is waiting for a friend before he can go home?’
PC Pearson replied: ‘Yes.’
Mr Cooper said: ‘You’ve seen him picking up his possessions and following your instructions to leave, do you see that?’
The officer replied: ‘Mr Corbyn’s megaphone at that stage did not work, someone else tried to hand over another megaphone.
‘That was him putting his megaphone down.’
Mr Cooper asked: ‘Do you hear him saying, I am going to leave?’
PC Pearson replied: ‘yes.’
The officer’s footage showed a supporter jumping into shot and yelling repeatedly ‘I’m inviting him for a coffee’ minutes before Corbyn was arrested.
At a hearing on Friday Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told Corbyn took part in the protests, which were ‘anti-lockdown’, in May this year and addressed people gathered at the meeting
The court was told that the two gatherings near Speakers Corner in Hyde Park on May 16 and May 30 were attended by 100 or more people, in breach of lockdown restictions at the time
Mr Cooper told PC Pearson: ‘Had you permitted Mr Corbyn to leave with the lady who invited him for a coffee, there would have been no need to arrest him at that stage. He would have simply left.’
The officer replied: ‘I don’t think he would have.’
Mr Cooper said Corbyn was treated differently to fellow anti-lockdown and BLM protestors ‘because he is Jeremy Corbyn’s brother’.
The court was told another officer had explained to the weather forecaster that his arrest was ‘necessary to protect public health’ during the first gathering on 16 May.
The activist’s lawyers previously told Westminster Magistrates’ Court Corbyn was not given a fair chance to leave before being arrested and the incident should never have made it to court.
Last week the court considered dropping the case because police were accused of ‘abuse of process’ by singling out Corbyn, partly because he was the former Labour leader’s brother, on a day when they made no arrests at a much larger Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Corbyn’s defence lawyers also asked for the case to be thrown out after accusing prosecutors of ‘deliberately misleading’ the court over what evidence had been disclosed but the trial went ahead.
The court previously heard how, at the first protest, cops didn’t follow the ‘four Es’ strategy of engaging with a member of the public, explaining the regulations, and encouraging them to go home before enforcing the rules with a fine or arrest.
Instead, body-worn video footage from the arresting officer showed her immediately ordering Corbyn to go home without explaining the restrictions to him.
The trial continues.