British “Yellow Vest” Group Disrupts Court of Appeal Hearing: Some Notes

From the Independent:

A drink-driver who killed three teenage boys as they walked to a birthday party has had his prison sentence reduced at a court hearing that was disrupted by protesters.

Judges preparing to hand down their decision on the case of Jaynesh Chudasama at the Court of Appeal were forced to halt proceedings because of shouting and chanting from people in the public gallery, including members of the “yellow vests” group.

Family members of victims Harry Rice, 17, George Wilkinson, 16, and Josh McGuinness, 16, were among about 30 members of the public who attended the Royal Courts of Justice for the decision.

The “yellow vests” group – inspired by, but not apparently connected with, protesters in France – came to attention last week when members blocked several bridges across the Thames in central London in support of Brexit. There was also an incident in which activists approached the pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry on the street outside Parliament and abused her as a “traitor” who is “on the side of Adolf Hitler”. (1)

The group identified itself as “Fighting for Justice”, and some of the yellow vests had the slogan “Justice for Our Boys” written on the back. The same slogan featured at a “Free Tommy” event over the summer, and refers to the claim that Chudasama was actually a terrorist who killed the boys deliberately. The campaigners – who include at least two of parents of the victims – argue that Chudasama’s jihadi motive has been covered up by the police and legal system, and that he ought to have been tried and convicted for murder rather than for causing death by dangerous driving.

The campaign has been endorsed by Tommy Robinson, and members noted in an earlier Independent report include “former soldier Tim Scott, who once led the UK branch of anti-Islam German group Pegida” and “David Coppin of Margate, an EDL supporter who has attended numerous far-right rallies across the UK including a ‘White Lives Matter’ march.” Further:

Also among them are two men allegedly involved in an attack on the Bookmarks socialist bookshop in London in August.

Mark Martin aka “Buska in the Park” and a young man called Max, who is known as “Red Cap Boy”, are both avid supporters of Mr Trump.

Social media has also identified one of the men involved in the abuse of Soubry as one Brian Philips, known as “Brian the Lion”.

The group’s spokesperson (he says that he is not the leader) is James Goddard, who told cheering “Free Tommy” supporters in the summer that the government consists of “Satanic paedophiles”; on Gab, Goddard has opined that “It’s about time the indigenous people of Great Britain, were put first”, and he reposted a reply referring to “Paki traitors of any stripe, along with your treasonous officials who enable the ethnic cleansing of the native British people”. He further advises the journalist Afua Hirsch, whose mother is Ghanaian (her father is British), that “this isn’t Africa” and that she should “F**K Off, back to Bongo Land” after she made provocative comments about Nelson’s Column. On Twitter, he makes generous use of the alt-right insults “snowflake” and “soy-boy”, and so on.

The campaign also intersects with several conspiracy theories: the vest worn by “Brian the Lion”, for example, has a reference to “788-790 Finchley Road”, a company service address that a man named Graham Bowden believes is at the centre of a multi-million pound fraud involving politicians. Goddard’s own vest features the acronym “WWG1WGA”, indicating alignment with the extravagant (and repeatedly deferred) promises of “QAnon”, and Tracy Blackwell (var. Tracey Blackwell), the mother of one of those killed, has signalled her support for Melanie Shaw and the Hampstead Ritual Abuse hoaxer Sabine McNeill.

It is not a surprise, then, that members of the campaign are suspicious of the law itself; and there are indications of “Freeman of the Land”-type beliefs, which regard the legal system as being largely illegitimate, having usurped the “common law” (I discussed this in relation to a group called the “White Pendragons” here). This may explain why there was disruption at the Court of Appeal. The court judgment (which can be read here) includes the detail that

As we understood it, [the families] challenged the adequacy of the charges without success. They had also complained to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London. Finally, we were handed a Notice of Application for Voluntary Bill of Indictment for a voluntary bill against a Metropolitan Police Officer for “misconduct in office by failing to exercise his powers to investigate allegations of murder”. The document goes on to assert that “the families of the victims have exercised their common law right to refer the matter to a Middlesex Grand Jury of their peers which has issued a presentment”.

Such “grand juries” were abolished in 1933, I would hazard that this is a reference to some pseudo-legal group of like-minded activists.

The judgment also discusses in some detail the circumstances in which the boys were killed. Although the idea of a drunk jihadist is counter-intuitive, it is possible that an act of violent jihad might have romantic and redemptive appeal to someone who has not adopted Islamist strictures, and the family claim that Chudasama had viewed jihadi videos. However, in this case it seems that Chudasama had genuinely lost control of his car; further, he had a passenger, and after the crash his instinct was to flee rather than cause further harm. It seems to me that a trial for murder would almost certainly have failed to prove its case.


(1) The aggressive street abuse of Soubry was widely condemned on social media, although Kate Hoey MP dissented by promoting an article on Spiked by Brendan O’Neill entitled “Of Course Anna Soubry is being Protested Against”. O’Neill argues that “the fury over the anti-Soubry protests speaks to the astonishing sense of entitlement in the political set”, and that “the media class’s hatred for these protesters is down to the fact that they are from the lower classes”. He acknowledges that “one of them is a known hard-right activist”, but argues that it is unfair to extrapolate any wider significance from this. As is often the case with O’Neill, he has a point as regards the general principle, but his polemic is overstated and selectively applied: thus while he is scathing of Soubry’s supporters he has no problem with Sarah Champion MP neutralising criticism by characterising instances of it as extremist attacks that personally endanger her.

Revealingly, one MP who is usually very quick to characterise criticisms of MPs as harassment has had nothing to say about Soubry being accosted in the street: this is Nadine Dorries, who recently announced that she is “speaking [to] police” about disobliging comments made about her by the journalist James O’Brien. In 2016, Dorries claimed that she had been “terrified” and “surrounded” by a Remainer protest held just after the referendum, and she mocked Soubry with the false claim that she had been inebriated when she addressed the crowd. However, the appearance of videos of the yellow-vest abuse of Soubry happened to coincide with Dorries announcing that she is taking a break from Twitter.