Two protesters involved in the English Defence League (EDL) march in Peterborough have been fined for using threatening behaviour towards police.
Scott Whitehead (32) and James Black (22) appeared separately at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday (17th December). They both pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive behaviour likely to cause harrassment, alarm and distress and were both fined £150 by District Judge Ken Sheraton.
Black, of Heathyfields Road, Farnham, Surrey, was punished for throwing a coin at mounted police officers last Saturday as the EDL march proceeded across Town Bridge towards Bridge Street. Prosecutor Graham Dalley said that although Black’s coin did not hit anyone, mounted police put their helmet visors down to protect their faces.
Black appeared at court wearing a dark-hooded top bearing the writing: “English Defence League. Surrey Division”.
Defending himself, Black said he only acted in that way to get the police’s attention as he felt threatened by the proximity of the mounted officers. He said: “The horse came towards a group of EDL on the bridge. Some went down the steps at the side of the bridge, I was following but the horse came straight in front of me and trod on my foot.”
Meanwhile, father-of-four Whitehead, of Pilton Close, Peterborough, apologised for his drunken behaviour after shouting abuse at the mounted officers following the march.
Mr Dalley, prosecuting, said Whitehead had shouted insults at the officers at around 5.15pm, a few hours after the EDL march had finished, before attempting to grab the reins of one of the horses in Bridge Street. Whitehead, who also represented himself, said: “I just want to apologise for my behaviour and for wasting both police and court time.”
Judge Sheraton, while sentencing Whitehead, said: “I think it’s about time you grew up.”
He fined Whitehead and Black £150 each and ordered them both to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the court hearing, Inspector Matt Snow said he could not say whether a horse trod on Black’s foot but he rejected Black’s claims that a mounted officer had acted inappropriately during the march.
He said: “The riders have to make a judgement under the circumstances as to the amount of force that is required. I presume in that officer’s mind there was a reasonably large number of EDL protesters in the area at the time and that he acted for the public safety.”
Peterborough is being held up as an example of how to effectively police an EDL march and associated counter-protests. Supt Paul Fullwood said Cambridgeshire police had received calls from other forces including police from Luton who are preparing for an EDL march in February, asking for information about how they handled the event.
Ten arrests were made on the day, with the EDL and the Peterborough Trades Union Council marches passing generally peacefully.
Supt Fullwood said: “We learned from forces that had policed similar protests, taking into account the good and the bad aspects, and formed our own plans. Since then we have been approached by a number of different forces asking how we handled the situation.”
Peterborough Evening Telegraph