Bromley Magistrates’ Court is rather better organised than Bexley’s, there is
a large comfortable waiting area and the courtroom includes a spacious public
gallery with raked padded seats behind a ‘glass’ screen. However when it comes
to the conduct of justice it is no different; a totally depressing place. Not
because of the charade being played out in the name of justice but the fumbling amateurish
nature of it all. Too often the Judge’s questions were answered with “I don’t know ma‘m” or
a story which was simply not true. Prosecutor Denise Johnson was utterly pathetic. She did
not know the case and her oratory would disgrace a junior school debating society.
The Defence barrister, Rupert Hallowes, could have been more familiar with the case too but he was a man who could think quickly and generally, but not always, analyse the situation accurately and put forward a powerful argument in support of Olly. I formed the impression that if he had met the lamentable Denise Johnson at the trial its result might have been very different.
The hearing got under way at 14:31 in an entirely, Rupert excepted, female staffed court. Judge Julia Newton, who is a woman who looks as though she is perpetually chewing on a wasp, had forgotten the facts of the case and asked Ms. Johnson to remind her. After much paper rustling Johnson read out the case that had been dismissed on 21st December and was so confused that she said the victim was DI Keith Marshall (†). When she was corrected by the Defence we were told that Olly had named councillor Melvin Seymour (which he most certainly had not) and councillor Sandra Bauer’s invention referring to dog faeces was further embellished to become “dog faeces and anything else through his letter box”. Apart from the conjunction and the pronoun every single word of that submission is untruthful. Is it any wonder that Judge Newton always gave the impression that she was wholly against Olly?
The Defence barrister Hallowes wasn’t blameless. He reminded the Judge that Olly had blogged on Bexley-is-Bonkers, “a grossly offensive and menacing” anti-Bexley council blog “run by Malcolm Knight” but redeemed himself slightly by implying that he is the blogger who “several councillors who did not want to be named” were most upset by. Probably he got that bit right.
Hallowes then put forward a host of mitigating factors before sentencing which was comprehensive and compelling. The Judge was reminded that if it was not for the intervention of councillor Sandra Bauer, Seymour could not possibly have been offended. There was no incitement to visit his property. Olly had offered to apologise to Seymour for his misjudged Tweet but the police told him not to. Hallowes also demolished the Defence proposal that a curfew might be imposed on Olly as part of his punishment, an entirely inappropriate sanction he successfully argued. He also argued that the restraining order referring to the whole of Bexley council and its employees was far too draconian. Olly was not guilty of anything beyond upsetting Seymour and Hallowes put a copy of his own proposal before the Judge who accepted it without further comment.
Additional to the order preventing contact with councillor Seymour for five years, Olly was ordered to perform 80 hours of Community Service over the next twelve months and pay the prosecution costs of £620.
The Defence then counter-claimed for £2,046.26 for the false harassment charges and councillor Philip Read’s false allegation of broken bail conditions. The Judge allowed costs up to and including the 21st December 2011 to be paid from the public purse. The precise amount wasn’t made clear but there were indications that it might be in the region of £1,400.
Olly is to appeal against the verdict.
The hearing ended just after 15:30. An unidentified female taking copious notes and sitting alone in the public gallery is assumed to be another of Seymour’s family. Apart from her and two policemen from Bexleyheath the observers numbered only three. One has put her account of proceedings on-line.
† DI Keith Marshall is the Bexleyheath policeman who is on record with the Independent Police Complaints Commission as stating that no offences have been committed on Bexley-is-Bonkers.
Note 17th August 2012. At an appeal hearing where both Seymour and Bauer were called as witnesses and cross examined it became clear that it was Seymour who had dishonestly exaggerated the content of the Tweet in order to attempt a miscarriage of justice and Bauer had merely sent him a copy and took no part in its embellishment.