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Union activist’s megaphone is ‘no weapon’, judge rules

‘Assault’ charge for using loud-hailer at minicab drivers’ rally is thrown out

17 January, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Drivers celebrate with James Farrar outside the court

A TRADE union activist is to take legal action against the police for malicious prosecution after he was charged with assault for speaking too loudly through a megaphone.

James Farrar, 51, was arrested at a demonstration after speaking at a minicab drivers’ rally against the congestion charge in Parliament Square on March 4 last.

Police admitted there was no physical contact with an officer but argued the loudness and proximity of the loud-hailer amounted to “battery” and was an “unlawful application of force”.

But yesterday (Thursday) the case collapsed after a judge at Southwark Crown Court ruled there was no case to answer.

Mr Farrar is now considering bringing a civil case against the police for a malicious prosecution.

His lawyer Raj Chada, a solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “This was a disgraceful prosecution of a trade union activist for using a loud-hailer.

“In all my years as a criminal lawyer I have never experienced an argument that sound waves constitute assault. We’re amazed that it ever got this far.

Union organiser James Farrar

“We have maintained from the start that the investigation into Mr Farrar on these spurious allegations began after he made a complaint against the police behaviour that day.

“We are concerned that there is a risk that this prosecution was a smoke-screen to divert attention away from how the Metropolitan Police and TfL [Transport for London] are treating Mr Farrar’s union members.

“We are advising Mr Farrar about action to take against the Metropolitan Police.”

The judge ruled that the megaphone was “something he needed to use in order to communicate what he wanted to say to the crowd” and was “not in any way an unlawful application of force”.

Mr Farrar is an organiser of the United Private Hire Drivers’ branch of the Independent Workers of Great Britain union, that has been left with a £27,000 legal bill and is fundraising to pay costs.

He had, in the run-up to the case, complained about police violence against protesters and profiling of fellow union members as terrorists.

The IWGB had lodged official complaints with the Metropolitan Police Service Road and Transport Command over police behaviour at the demonstration.

Speaking after the court hearing, he said: “This was a corrupt and crude attempt by the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London to break our union and further disenfranchise precarious workers.

“I now call on the Mayor of London to conduct an urgent investigation into this case and to ensure those responsible are held to account.

“I have now instructed my lawyers to pursue this matter.”

Yaseen Aslam, general secretary of the UPHD said the attack was “not only on James Farrar but on the fundamental rights of 110,000 mini-cab drivers licensed by Transport for London”.

The Met did not respond to a request for comment.

• To donate towards the legal costs visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/defend-trade-unionists/

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