Rowan Laxton Retrial

25 03 2010

Category: anti-semitism, criminal law, middle east, rowan laxton


To call Rowan Laxton’s second trial an ‘appeal’ could sound misleading. It was a brand new trial, from scratch. Everyone convicted in the magistrates court has the right to this. The whole case is brought again and decided on again.

I’ve had the chance to read some more about the judgment here. I’m puzzled by it.

The bench held that he either didn’t say ‘f——- Jews’ or if he did say it he didn’t think anyone would have been able to hear him.

That sounds like the sort of judgment Bishop Berkeley or Monty Python might come up with – ‘I didn’t do it, and if I did do it I didn’t think anyone would notice me doing it.’…

And what about ‘f——- Israelis?’ They are covered by the legislation too, whether or not an Israeli was present.

If they didn’t want to find that the racial element was made out they ought still to have convicted him.  The offence itself is straightforward – see the guidelines for prosecuting S.5 Public Order Act (POA). It’s minor anti-social behaviour. The racial element is not integral to the offence (being racially aggravated just means a bigger fine – that’s the only possible penalty).

His offence was being unpleasant in public. The phrases used were incidental to that; he was still guilty under S.5 of the Public Order Act.

But because the law is badly drafted, he couldn’t be found guilty of the standard offence. In the Magistrates court a bench can’t return an alternative verdict.

But he wasn’t in the magistrates court – it was Southwark Crown Court.

Yes, he was in the building Southwark Crown Court, and there was a Crown Court judge present, but for the purposes of the trial it was a magistrates court with all the rules of the magistrates court, it was a summary only offence…and in the magistrates court someone charged with racially aggravated s.5 POA can’t be found guilty under S.5 POA in the alternative.

But CPS guidelines instruct that both charges (racially aggravated and non-racially aggravated) are put in all cases – see Annex A: Racially/religiously aggravated harassment/alarm/distress (s.31(1)(c) CDA). Were they?

Clear enough for you? No, nor me or anyone else…

I also wonder how the trial was conducted. Were both prosecution witnesses able to attend? If not that would severely hamper the prosecution case. I’d love to know more about the hearing.

Oh and his barrister, Julian Knowles, more usually found in cases involving international terror suspects and ‘among the world’s most formidable lawyers.’ There was an application, which appears to have been granted, that the public purse pay his costs. In a case that is so trivial that the vast majority of people who are charged with it would not qualify for legal aid.

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