David McHarg, a member of Class War Scotland, was found guilty of two charges on Monday the 4th of June for displaying a poster in his window which wrote “Fuck off you Tory cunts”.
Below is a statement David gave us immediately after the trial.
As we have previously reported, during the 2017 UK parliamentary elections David McHarg was arrested twice after the police officers conducted a home visit at his house, claiming they received a complaint for abusive use of language. The police officer said he was being arrested for’obstruction’ by not providing her with his details.
David was convicted on two charges, for ’threatening or abusive behaviour’ under Section 38(1), The Criminal Justice and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2012 and for ‘failure to give details as a witness’ under the Court Section 13–14, The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. The previous trial planned for the 11th of January was postponed because David’s lawer failed to attend.
A court solidarity event was organised by members of the Class War group calling- people to show solidarity outside and inside the court on Monday the 4th of June.
On their Facebook page, Class War wrote that “We need folk to support – activists’ like David (and Panos from the IWW), they put their liberty on the line because they believe in direct action, free speech and in challenging the state – never an easy option; you either do or you don’t! If you do, you’re likely to end up arrested and in court. It’s really important that we support them – especially on the day of their court appearance!”
David represented himself due to his lawer’s “complete incompetence and lack of care in dealing with the case”, as he said.
David McHarg’s defence was presented as follows:
He asked multiple times, “Is it a crime to offend somebody?” and then invoked his Article 10 right to ‘freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Act 1998. The defence as a whole was mostly based on the premise that if activists are targeted for protesting or expressing their political views without having offended any protected characteristics, then we have a case where the justice and the penal system actively constrains people’s freedom of speech.
The judge eventually found David guilty. The final sentence is suspended for 6 months subject to “good behaviour”.
As it is stated on the Papers by Public Defenders in regards to cases of Suspended Sentences, a suspended sentence “effectively used, […] could give those looking at gaol for the first time or those at the ‘cross-roads’ a last chance to show they can change and rehabilitate while at the same time allowing the court to publicly denounce their conduct.” Essentially, “a suspended sentence represents the sword of Damocles hanging over a person.”
After the sentence was announced David addressed all of the judicial officers present to make a final statement. He said that that this kind of ‘justice’- where individuals are penalised for their political expression- is very dangerous not only in his case, but for any other case of a similar nature. He warned the judicial officers that their decision sets a harmful precedent whereby authorities will be further empowered to prosecute any form of expression that challenges them. No comment was made in response.
David plans to seek the help of Amnesty International and to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Court solidarity becomes a crucial part of the fight to defend our fundamental rights to protest”. As people active in social movements are increasingly targeted by the State, it is important that these movements coordinate and support each other. David McHarg has organised a fundraiser to appeal the court’s decision.
DEFEND FREE SPEECH NOT HATE SPEECH!
Solidarity with David McHarg!