Is it against the law to protest against Anna Soubry?

A woman has been convicted of ‘harassing’ Soubry by protesting against her. This is deeply troubling.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
Editor

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Is it against the law to protest against Anna Soubry? It looks like it is. A court has found a woman guilty of causing Ms Soubry to feel ‘alarm and distress’ by interrupting her public meetings and calling her a traitor during a live TV interview. In the words of the judge, the woman was ‘driven by anger at Ms Soubry’s political views on Brexit’ and that anger made Ms Soubry feel harassed. This is a deeply disturbing verdict. It should worry everyone who believes in the political right to challenge MPs and the broader elite.

The individual in question is Amy Dalla Mura, a somewhat eccentric member of the nationalist party, the English Democrats. She is known to lurk close to live TV interviews and interrupt politicians. What’s more, she is standing for the English Democrats in Broxtowe, Soubry’s seat. So Soubry has taken to court and successfully convicted one of her challengers in the General Election. That feels wrong and anti-democratic. Worse, the judge, finding Dalla Mura guilty of harassment, decided to ban Dalla Mura from the constituency of Broxtowe. Graciously, she is still allowed to contest the seat of Broxtowe, but she is not allowed to visit it and she is not allowed to mention Soubry – the incumbent MP – in any of her campaigning literature. This feels like an intolerable judicial intervention into the sphere of politics.

The truth is that Dalla Mura’s actions would strike a great many people as political activity, not harassment. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that she turned up to a meeting Ms Soubry was speaking at in parliament and ‘repeatedly interrupted her’. She filmed and live-streamed the event and her own interruptions. She also stood behind Ms Soubry during a live TV interview for Newsnight and called her a traitor. The judge said this kind of behaviour was ‘oppressive and unacceptable’.

Anyone who has ever spoken at a meeting that is disrupted by protesters will know how irritating it is. Having myself faced hostile protesters at Oxford, Cambridge and elsewhere, I know it isn’t pleasant. Having also taken part in media debates in which I’ve been shouted down – including by Soubry! – I know how annoying that can be too. But oppressive? Alarming? A matter for the courts? That is way over the top. Dalla Mura may, in the words of one of the witnesses, be a ‘troubled’ person, and she may, as the judge said, be ‘angry’ over the betrayal of Brexit, but she did things which would previously have been accepted as part of the rough and tumble of democratic politics.

Left-wing people frequently invade public meetings and shout down Tory speakers. Filming oneself confronting a politician is now par for the course in public life. Shouting things at politicians as they give live TV interviews has become perfectly normal in recent years. Consider the Stop Brexit man, Steve Bray, who has been standing outside Westminster for ages and barking stupid slogans at every pro-Brexit politician who is speaking to the TV cameras. Is that harassment too? Is that oppressive and unacceptable?

Protest, confrontation and, yes, anger are all a key part of politics. Citizens must have the right to engage with representatives, including angrily. That a magistrate is passing judgement on an individual’s ‘anger at Ms Soubry’s political views on Brexit’ is what is truly alarming in this case. People have a right to be angry about what Soubry and other politicians have done to the vote for Brexit – they have betrayed it, blocked it and demeaned it, and in the process they have caused immeasurable harm to democracy in this country. People must have the right to express anger about it in a peaceful way.

This is a very worrying case. It potentially sets a dangerous precedent. When anger at MPs can be refashioned as harassment, the right to protest itself is called into question. When judges can instruct candidates in an election to stay away from the constituency they are contesting, the independence of the political sphere is called into question. Dalla Mura may have caused Ms Soubry to feel alarmed – the rest of us will feel alarmed by the seriously anti-democratic and illiberal consequences that this verdict could have.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

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To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Hugo van der Meer

26th November 2019 at 2:03 pm

Addendum: ‘there’ should read ‘their’…spell check got it worng again.

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 7:38 pm

QUOTE: ” Filming oneself confronting a politician is now par for the course in public life. ”

Indeed. Not so long ago, we saw a video of a Labour MP (forget his name…he was very forgettable) haranguing Dominic Cummings who appeared to be in the middle of a private conversation). I loved Dom’s (probably honest and unconscious) put-down of this nobody when he said “I’m sorrry, I don’t know who you are…”.

(I looked like it was being filmed by a friend of the nobody M.P.)

Stew Green

22nd November 2019 at 10:10 pm

It was Karl Turner the Hull MP who was being trailed by a young video maker.
He saw Cummings in the HoC lobby and thought he would let lose at him.
After he posted his video, people pointed out that at the end he seemed to say he ‘d like to see Cummings’s dead in a ditch.
Turner has form , in an old tweet he gives a thumbs up to milkshaking UKIP people.

Stew Green

22nd November 2019 at 12:37 pm

There is news : The magistrates’s husband was a long term colleague of Soubry.
(UnityNews have the story)
It’s not a big case so why did they use the Chief magistrate in London ?
The magistrate was Judge Emma Arbuthnot, or formally as The Baroness Arbuthnot of Edrom.
Since she is Chief magistrate it is not unusual for her to be involved in a case like Assange’s
But the case of a protester disrupting a former Tory MP is different.
… Now what does the magistrates husband do ?
.. By sheer coincidence Lord James Arbuthnot is a Conservative peer and was a Tory MP for 15 years including being defence minister.
So Soubry was a colleague of him. She even recently tweeted respect for him.

Sure try a disruptive protester, but how can it be OK for the judge to be connected to the complainant by way of the judge’s husband being a recent POLITICAL colleague of the complainant ?

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 7:30 pm

Should be grounds for an appeal, at least.

Don Bennett

22nd November 2019 at 11:17 am

Does that mean you cant boo at football matches incase it upsets the luvvies

Davy Hayes

22nd November 2019 at 8:42 am

I feel alarmed and distressed every time La Soubry opens her mouth….

Stew Green

22nd November 2019 at 12:32 am

We have double standard justice in Orwellian Britain2019
If you signal you are a metroliberal you get light justice.
If you signal you challenge the metroliberal agendas you get extremely heavy justice.

AFAIK the judgement was unfair on Amy cos for harassment to be judged, there need to have been 3 different occasions
There were 2 occasions of protest, but the other time she looked for Soubry and she wasn’t there. The judge appears to have counted this as a third occasion when “intimidation” took place.

Secondly there is an interesting incident in one of Amy’s livestreams
A young antifa girl is intimidating Amy, Amy does not bite but rather tries to pin her down into a discussion. She persists and the antifa girl thinks she can prove Amy wrong but can’t , again Amy doesn’t get angry but continues. After a few minutes the antifa girl gets so frustrated she spits right in Amy’s face and walks off.
The police asks Amy if she wants to press charges .
Amy says of course not, recognising that the big legal stick is not a way to win a debate.

Now on another occasion Amy did use a pen to puncture the Trump balloon, which I don’t agree with, cos whatever libmob provocation there is people shouldn’t stoop to their level,

Hugo van der Meer

26th November 2019 at 1:40 pm

It’s a long long way past Orwellian, geezer.

Sandy Robertson

22nd November 2019 at 12:27 am

I agree with the article in principle, but this lady Amy is a disruptive person with mental problems. She cost a fortune and was banned from the seaside due to numerous suicide attempts. Her heart may be in the right place but anyone familiar with her antics, such as being ejected from parliament, haranguing an innocent Sikh that he should understand why he might be suspected of being a terrorist in a pub, bursting a Trump balloon and injuring herself in the process, etcetera, most of which are available on You Tube, will possibly agree that she’s the wrong horse to back in a support of the right to protest. In the past when I’ve brought these points up on threads I’m invariably accused of being heartless by mentioning the elephant in the room – viz, that she’s an unstable distraction.

Violin Accordion

22nd November 2019 at 6:50 pm

Police and CPS brought 3 charges of criminal harassment.you caN google met.police/ Dallamura.
She purports to know the law, but she’s always getting arrested. 3rd time this year.
Last one for obstructing the highway
Before writing such a long diatribe you should have read the Public Order Act 1986 . It’s plain and clear.

Hugo van der Meer

26th November 2019 at 1:43 pm

You clearly mean sourberry is the unstable distraction, if not, I’m that the sad fact is that you are in desperate need of help.

David Webb

21st November 2019 at 10:23 pm

Er… yes…. Support for the European Union is treason. The privy counsellor oath makes that clear: specifically the Queen’s ministers vow not to hand over the queen’s pre-eminences, authorities and jurisdictions to a foreign potentate (exact wording, which hasn’t changed in centuries). Yet taking us into the EU did just that.

Peter McKenna

21st November 2019 at 9:05 pm

Hardly the first time a court has convicted someone of causing someone else to feel ‘alarm and distress’. In 2010 an atheist was convicted of causing an airport chaplain to feel distress. He didn’t even interrupt the chaplain or call her names: he’d just left satirical cartoons in the prayer room.

I was at the hearing. Ironically, it caused the atheist – a Dublin survivor of Christian Brother teaching methods – *huge* distress.

He got a 6 month suspended sentence and an asbo forbidding him to carry any material that a religious person might find offensive.

Geoff Cox

22nd November 2019 at 8:43 am

I was surprised about this, but then I read your post again and you put “He didn’t even interrupt the chaplain or call her names”. …. call *her* names. Now it becomes a lot less surprising.

Janet Mozelewski

21st November 2019 at 8:45 pm

Ah…Anna Soubry…the woman who appointed the first regulator of the pub industry. She chose Paul Newby, a man who has considerable conflict (20 years worth) of interests with the major pub companies (redacted from his CV) and was a totally unfit and improper person to take on the role as regulator for an industry that has suffered greatly from under the cosh of said PubCo’s. She no doubt knew this…but appointed him anyway.

Carlo Guli

21st November 2019 at 8:35 pm

Hope the people of Broxtowe see Soubry for what she is, an arrogant hubristic self centred woman, a bully and unable to serve the community, vote her down to the ground and teach her a bit of humility.
Maybe we should start wearing ‘Bollocks to Soubry’ t shirts.
Very angry about this.

Kathryn Barbara

21st November 2019 at 7:07 pm

Send a Barrister to Parliament and it’s no surprise they resort to the law. The people of Broxtowe deserve way better than a turncoat MP. The law is no friend to democracy here. Need a new law to make MPs who change parties face the electorate in a by-election. Let them be the judges. These type of MPs are electoral fraudsters.

Jim Lawrie

21st November 2019 at 7:02 pm

The judge has stepped beyond her powers to the point of abuse. Ms dalla Mura muyst challenge this by ignoring the orders and starting an appeal.

Gareth Hart

21st November 2019 at 4:42 pm

How long before criticism and disagreement with a politician gets you a day in the dock facing an harassment charge?

Dominic Straiton

21st November 2019 at 3:39 pm

How on earth are we going to fix the corruption in all branches of the British state.

john larkin

21st November 2019 at 3:38 pm

Anna Soubry’s behaviour at closing time is very frighting indeed …

steve moxon

21st November 2019 at 1:51 pm

It’ll backfire, solidifying the anti-Sourpuss vote.
It stinks, and everybody knows it stinks.
If anything it should be against the law NOT to insult the anti-democratic elitist dumb … well, fascist.
Yep, Nazi is not an altogether inappropriate sobriquet for Soubrey, so just what insult towards her would be an insult per se rather than an apposite jibe?

steve moxon

21st November 2019 at 1:57 pm

More good news: Emily Thornberry looks set to lose her London to the Glib Dems.
Karma or what?

Michael Lynch

21st November 2019 at 7:32 pm

God, I hope so.

Ven Oods

21st November 2019 at 1:16 pm

This woman stands no chance of being elected so ‘no campaigning’ won’t change anything, but the partiality of the judgement is worrying.
However, so long as Soubry is prised off the greasy pole, justice will have been served.

John Carins

21st November 2019 at 1:07 pm

Soubry is simply a disgrace and those who pander to her pretensions (this judge) are a disgrace.

Ed Turnbull

21st November 2019 at 12:28 pm

Does anyone believe that had this been someone protesting Farage or Boris is this way they’d have been convicted of anything? No, neither do I, not for a moment. Had Farage or Boris been the target the case would’ve been thrown out in a heartbeat.

It would seem that equality before the law is now seen as ‘problematic’ in the wokesphere. The woke bang on about ‘equality’ incessantly, but this, it appears, is one particular equality for which they have no time.

Michael Lynch

21st November 2019 at 11:05 am

Don’t worry. When she’s out on her arse they’ll be no more special treatment from the law. She’ll be down with the rest of us then and will have to take the full weight of criticism she deserves. Can’t wait for the 12th.

Neil John

22nd November 2019 at 1:51 pm

One can only hope, though if she is she’ll be parachuted into a suitable ‘job’ somewhere she can still interfere…

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 7:46 pm

And (sadly), there is always the Lords, that Care Home of failure.

O Lordy!

Neil McCaughan

21st November 2019 at 10:34 am

When such wrong headed judgements are handed down, it seems appropriate to publish the name and home address of the judge concerned. We’ve seen far too much evidence of judicial incompetence and bias, and it’s got to stop.

And why wasn’t the judge’s self-indulgence checked by the jury? Because there wasn’t one. We know that judges can’t be trusted – but juries can.

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 7:42 pm

Seemingly, judges make the law now, as well as upholding it. It’s a good job we don’t have capital punishment, or they’d probably want to be the hangman as well.

Hugo van der Meer

26th November 2019 at 1:44 pm

Judges do not uphold the law there job is interpretation.

Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

1st December 2019 at 10:31 pm

Yes, because Blair replaced the House of Lords with a EUropean style Supreme Court.

And our judges have slowly been morphing from Common Law judges to EU/ Civil/ Napoleonic/ Roman/ Dictators law judges who make up the law to suit themselves!

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