In a landmark High Court judicial review action brought by Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Crown Prosecution Service has been forced to cancel its decision not to prosecute a neo-Nazi leader, Jeremy Bedford-Turner. The CPS had repeatedly refused to prosecute him.
After capitulating to CAA unequivocally after an extended legal battle, just days before a High Court hearing, the CPS must now ask a senior lawyer to reconsider whether to prosecute.
In a speech to neo-Nazis surrounded by police in July 2015, Bedford-Turner said that: “…all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.” Evoking medieval libels which claimed that Jews drank the blood of non-Jewish children, Bedford-Turner told his followers, of whom one third were from the violent extreme-right National Rebirth of Poland group, that the French Revolution and both World Wars were massacres perpetrated by Jews. He concluded that England was “merry” during the period of the expulsion of Jews from England and demanded: “Let’s free England from Jewish control.” The speech was filmed and posted on YouTube, where it remains.
The speech was made in a kettling pen in Westminster. The neo-Nazis had sought to march through Golders Green but were prevented from doing so by police due to a large counterdemonstration mobilised by CAA.
The CPS took over five months to decide not to prosecute the case, deciding that there was no realistic prospect of a jury finding that Bedford-Turner’s speech amounted to incitement to racial or religious hatred (using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour with the intention (or likely consequence) of stirring up racial or religious hatred). CAA’s Chairman, Gideon Falter, who had witnessed the speech, applied for Victims’ Right to Review, but was told by the CPS that he was not a victim and had no victim’s rights.
Faced with no alternative, CAA took the unusual step of issuing judicial review proceedings to submit the CPS decision to the scrutiny of the High Court.
CAA was partly motivated by a growing concern that the CPS is failing to take antisemitic crime seriously. 2015, the year in which the crime was committed, was the worst year on record for antisemitic hate crime. Yet of 15,442 prosecutions of hate crimes by the CPS, only 12 were prosecutions of antisemitic hate crime.
Whilst waiting for the High Court to decide whether to allow CAA to proceed, the case was brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Executive of the CPS who remained intransigent.
On 6th January 2017, the Hon. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave gave CAA’s judicial review permission to proceed on all grounds and limited CAA’s cost liability to zero. He held that this case “raises potentially important issues for society in this growing area of racist and religious hate crime.” The case was expedited to be held before a Divisional Court of the Administrative Division of the High Court today, Wednesday 8th March.
On the eve of the hearing, after more than a year of maintaining that her decision was correct, the Director of Public Prosecutions agreed that the decision should be quashed and taken again by a more senior lawyer.
The Director of Public Prosecutions’ capitulation comes as a representative survey of 1,864 British Jews found extremely low confidence in the CPS and the authorities. CAA’s 2016 Antisemitism Barometer research has not yet been published, however CAA has released the results from the research pertaining to confidence in the CPS:
Only 26% of British Jews think the CPS does enough to protect British Jews.
Only 23% of British Jews think that the authorities are doing enough to address and punish antisemitism.
Only 46% of British Jews have confidence that if they reported a hate crime, it would be prosecuted if there was enough evidence.
Gideon Falter, Chairman of CAA said: “We are delighted by this result, but for more than a year it has been clear that the DPP could not win. It is a disgrace that we have had to litigate for the DPP to reconsider the absurd decision not to prosecute this brazen neo-Nazi. The question now is why the CPS seems to demonstrate such incompetence in dealing with cases of antisemitism. Despite record levels of antisemitic crime, there are dismally few prosecutions of antisemites in Britain every year. Antisemites are becoming bolder and British Jews are losing faith in the authorities. The CPS must stop making excuses and prosecute antisemites with zero tolerance. If they do not, we will continue to hold them to account in court.”
Brian Kennelly QC, leading counsel in the judicial review, said: “The CPS has acknowledged that in future it must apply Article 17 of the European Human Rights Convention in cases of antisemitic hate speech. This provides that the right to free speech does not extend to those who would destroy that right.”
Jamie Susskind, junior counsel in the judicial review, said: “I hope that this case will mark a watershed in how the CPS chooses to prosecute cases of hardcore antisemitism. The CPS lawyers appeared to believe that a neo-Nazi’s right to free speech enabled him to say almost anything — no matter how grotesque, threatening, or hateful. This stance was wrong as a matter of law — none of us has an unqualified right to say things that aim to destroy the rights of others (in this case, the Jews). The CPS’s misunderstanding of the law may explain why so few antisemitic hate crimes have been prosecuted in the recent past. Following this decision, this needs to change — so that neo-Nazis and others are held to account for their crimes and the Jewish community can feel safe.”
CAA was represented pro bono by leading counsel Brian Kennelly QC, junior counsel Jamie Susskind, and solicitor David Sonn. The entire CAA team would like to thank our lawyers for the hundreds of hours that they have donated to this case. It would have been impossible for us to pursue this without their generosity. It is due to their devotion and skill that we have achieved this result.
We now await the CPS’s new decision on whether to prosecute Jeremy Bedford-Turner. Later this month, CAA will be in court again, privately prosecuting Alison Chabloz.
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