UK

Pro-Brexit activist denies harassing MP Anna Soubry

James Goddard Image copyright PA
Image caption James Goddard denied three charges

A pro-Brexit activist has pleaded not guilty to harassing MP Anna Soubry outside Parliament.

James Goddard, 29, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, is alleged to have called the MP a "Nazi" and a "traitor".

He denied three charges before the case at Westminster Magistrates' Court was temporarily adjourned when people in the public gallery started shouting.

Mr Goddard was remanded on bail until 19 July when he will face a two-day trial at the court in London.

He was held by police following protests outside Parliament.

He is charged with causing harassment between 18 December and 7 January; and racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, and harassment, alarm or distress on 7 January.

The charges have been brought under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and the Public Order Act 1986.

Ms Soubry, the MP for Broxtowe who supports another Brexit referendum, resigned from the Conservative Party in February to join the Independent Group.

At the scene

The BBC's Simon Jones

First appearances in court are usually pretty straightforward affairs - the accused speaks only to confirm his or her name, age and address, and it's all wrapped up in the space of just a few minutes.

From the start though, this case was something different, with proceedings at times descending into chaos. James Goddard refused to give his address, saying he didn't want to reveal it in front of the 'vultures' inside court - as he gestured towards the gathered media.

Around 50 of his supporters were packed into the public gallery. They applauded him on several occasions, then started chanting 'Shame on you' at the court officials. One shouted at the judge: "He's not a terrorist, you know."

Calls for calm fell on deaf ears. Eventually the judge hastily left the courtroom.

When the case finally resumed, the chaos continued, with Mr Goddard stepping out of the dock to complain that he would not get a fair trial.

Mr Goddard is accused of shouting and chanting at Ms Soubry as she was being interviewed by broadcasters; pursuing her along the street, loudly and repeatedly demanding she answer questions, and filming her continuously on a phone.

Addressing the court, he said: "It's not illegal to heckle an MP. All of this is wrong."

About 15 minutes into the hearing, the proceedings were adjourned after people in the public gallery started shouting that Mr Goddard should sack his lawyer and also chanted "Soubry is a Nazi".

The courts service said it was "deeply concerned to hear of intimidating behaviour" at the hearing.

A spokesperson added: "We apologise to all those affected and are urgently investigating what happened. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated."

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