A judge has thrown out the case of a cab driver’s union leader accused of attacking two Metropolitan Police officers by using a loudhailer too close to their ears.
James Farrar, 51, was charged with assault by beating of an emergency worker after using a megaphone near Constable Ann Spinks and Sergeant James Lewis during a protest in March last year.
But at the end the prosecution case, Judge Philip Bartle QC told the jury at at Southwark Crown Court to find the defendant not guilty on both counts after his defence argued there was no evidence he had committed a crime.
Prosecutor Terence Woods argued that while there was no physical attack, using the loudhailer in proximity to the officers was an ‘unlawful application of force’.
But Judge Bartle said he didn’t accept this and said the ‘facts did not justify the offence in either case of assault by beating’.
Icah Peart QC, defending, said it would be ‘violence to the English language’ to say that using a megaphone was an application of force.
He added: ‘What he was doing to address the protesters was, given the circumstances, entirely appropriate.’
As chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers’ branch of the IWGB union, Farrar organised a weekly Parliament Square protest against Transport for London (TfL) for exempting black cabs from the congestion charge but enforcing it for Uber and minicab drivers.
Jurors heard how he had used the megaphone before at the demonstration, which typically featured drums, air horns, whistles and vuvuzelas.
The court heard how both of the Metropolitan Police officers had pre-existing conditions and neither suffered lasting hearing loss as a result of the event.
Mr Peart said: ‘As the organiser of the protest, how else could he have made himself heard if he had not taken advantage of equipment such as the loudhailer?’
He said there was no suggestion that the union boss would have known he was causing discomfort or suffering by using the megaphone ‘in the way that he had done numerous times previously’.
The lawyer added: ‘The evidence that either of these police officers experienced the discomfort they did solely based on what Mr Farrar did rather than being stuck in the protest for a couple of hours is not easy to see.’
Making his decision, Judge Bartle dismissed that the prosecution would have infringed on the organiser’s right to protest and free speech under the European Convention on Human Rights.
He also dismissed the defence argument that it would have been impossible for the jury to think that only the megaphone caused the officers’ injuries.
The judge said there was evidence to suggest that two officers suffered ‘immediate pain and injury to their ears’ and that the use of the loudhailer could have deemed a ‘significant cause’.
But he was not convinced that it amounted to an ‘unlawful application of force’ as he threw the case out.
The IWGB union, which mostly represents people working in the gig economy including Uber drivers, had launched a fundraising campaign Farrar’s legal costs.
The defendant, from Bordon, Hampshire, had denied two charges of assault.
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