Anti-lockdown protester claims BBC journalist partly 'responsible' for intimidation

Anti-lockdown protester claims BBC journalist partly 'responsible' for intimidation

A man accused of being part of a crowd that intimidated a Newsnight journalist during an anti-lockdown protest in Whitehall apologised to the BBC man’s family before blaming him, a court heard.

Christopher Aitken said he was “sorry” for “any distress that Nick Watt’s family feel” over the incident in June 2021 while giving evidence to Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Timeline

  • June 29, 2022

    BBC journalist Nicholas Watt felt like ‘prey’ as he was chased by protesters, court hears

  • June 29, 2022

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  • June 28, 2022

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But moments later, the 62-year-old suggested Watt (pictured) was partly responsible and may have attended the protest to agitate the demonstrators.

Footage played in court showed protesters shouting in the face of the BBC Newsnight political editor, who was wearing a BBC lanyard at the time.

He first walked away from the crowd, but then took off running back through those behind him, eventually making his way behind the gates of Downing Street.

In the video, some can be heard shouting “traitor”, while another asked “how can you sleep at night?”

The court heard the experience had left Watt “very shaken” and the footage had upset his family.

Aitken could be seen on the video beating a metal tin with a spoon next to Watt as he ran through the crowd to escape.

While Aitken denies a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, he apologised to Watt.

He said: “I didn’t intend to cause any unhappiness to Nick Watt’s family and if there’s any distress that Nick Watt’s family feel over this. I am sorry and I apologise for that, it wasn’t my intention.”

However, he proceeded to apportion blame to Watt, saying: “He is responsible for some of what happened.”

Aitken suggested Watt may have attended the protest with the intention of agitating, and while he first agreed with prosecutor Alex Matthews the theory was “baseless” he later said it was not “without its merits”.

He told the court: “I’m unsure if the whole thing was manipulated by him to rile the crowds.”

He said he wanted to make Watt aware of his unhappiness with the BBC and believed the broadcaster had “betrayed the public” through its coverage of the pandemic by not representing viewpoints contradicting the Government.

The court also heard from co-defendant Martin Hockridge, 58, who accepted shouting “traitor” at Watt several times, but denied trying to make him feel threatened.Giving evidence, he said: “I didn’t want him to feel threatened. I didn’t want him to feel intimidated. That’s not what I’m about”He later added: “My intention was not to harass, my intention was to express my feeling.”The court also heard how, during a police interview, Hockridge told officers Watt “should face a Nuremberg-style trial for his role”.Hockridge, Djazia Chaib-Eddour, 44, Alexander Peat, 34, and Gary Purnell, 45, all deny charges of of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Anti-lockdown protester claims BBC journalist partly 'responsible' for intimidation

Alexander Peat arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, charged with a public order offence. Picture date: Wednesday June 29, 2022. Picture: PA Wire/Kirsty O’Connor

Anti-lockdown protester claims BBC journalist partly 'responsible' for intimidation

Martin Hockridge arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, charged with a public order offence. Picture date: Wednesday June 29, 2022. Picture: PA Wire/Kirsty O’Connor

Peat accepted being present at the demonstration and saying “traitor” as Watt passed him but denies the charge, the court heard.

In a police interview after his arrest, read to the court, he told officers: “I didn’t say anything, I just called him a traitor, that’s all I said. Other people may have sworn at him, I didn’t call him any four-letter words.”

Chaib-Eddour said her involvement was limited to asking him a question, although footage showed her and Hockridge walk behind and alongside Watt for several metres, the court was told.

Purnell gave a no comment interview to police and chose not to give evidence in court.

Watt told the court on Wednesday he had left his office in the parliamentary estate to observe the protest, which was initially “reasonably good natured” before the “atmosphere deteriorated”.

He said he ran “like an express train” to safety near No 10 after realising there was a “huge physical threat”.

“I had become their prey, their quarry. It was like hunting a vulnerable animal,” he added.

Aitken, of Lambeth, Hockridge, of Harpenden, Herts, Chaib-Eddour, of Islington, Peat, of Wandsworth, and Purnell, of Shepherd’s Bush, were released on bail.

The trial continues.

Picture: BBC Newsnight/Youtube screenshot

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Palay-Palay  National ParkAbout PagudpudFive Levels of Aguinid FallsIntroducing San Pascual, MasbateMount Manmanoc ItineraryAdventures in Fortune Island of Nasugbu | LakwatseroNext Level Mobile Photography with Sony Xperia XZ1 | LakwatseroScuba Diving in Siargao: Discovering the Underwater Treasures of Daku Island | LakwatseroAbout Davao CityHow to Get to AndaJanuary: Cebu & IloiloHow to Get to Mines View ParkKamay ni Hesus: Pilgrimage Site in Lucban | LakwatseroPoon Hill: Three Days of Himalayan AdventureCalvary Hill Cemetery of SagadaHow to Get to TambobongMilford SoundTen Things To Do in Sagada: Bucket List for NewbiesDahoyhoy FallsPilot for a Day: The Ultra Light Aircraft Experience | LakwatseroReal Coffee and Tea Cafe of Boracay | LakwatseroGhorepani Poon Hill TrekAbout Maniwaya IslandHow to Get to Binanga FallsPalo Alto Falls of Baras, Rizal | LakwatseroExplore Moscow: Best Things to Do in the City | LakwatseroStairway to HeavenMount Guiting-Guiting Overnight Trek Complete ItineraryCape Melville LighthouseLa Cathedral Café: Restaurant with a View in IntramurosKapurpurawan Rock Formation: White and BeautifulDay Hike ItineraryThe Sandbox at AlvieraHow to go to Mararison IslandA Weekend of Adventures in South Cebu and DumagueteCalayan Island: A Virtual Diary of Our Epic Journey | LakwatseroFaro de Isla Jintotolo (Jintotolo Island Lighthouse)Low’s PeakAbout Taal VolcanoHow to Get to Mag-aso Falls of BoholSamar: Biri Rock Formations Up Close | LakwatseroBonbon BeachIntroducing Jomalig IslandAbout Cotabato CityAbout TabukLeyte Landing Memorial: A Memorial for a Fulfilled Promise | LakwatseroSilyang Bato, Mount MaramiPanimahawa Ridge and Cedar Falls Day Hike ItineraryFun in the World’s Best IslandSample Albay ItinerariesMagpupungko Beach and Tidal Pools6 Tips for Living in the Philippines | LakwatseroDaraga Church: The Nuestra Señora dela Porteria ChurchTulgao Rice TerracesCape Melville Lighthouse (Faro del Cabo Melville)Canyoneering to Kawasan FallsLake FewaLong Weekend: Five-Day Suggested Itineraries in Luzon | LakwatseroAbout CaponesThe Wichcraft Café of Zamboanga City | LakwatseroHow to Get to GuiuanAll-Female FloorHow to Get to Neri’s VilleDiotay’s EateryShort but Sweet Melaka Getaway | LakwatseroHow to Get to Tinuy-An FallsOslob: The Lost Grandeur of Tumalog Falls | LakwatseroIlocos ItineraryDitumabo Falls: The Mother Falls of San Luis, Aurora!Biking in Kalinga: Trek and Bike to TabukParadise Garden: A Haven for Sea TurtlesSiargao: Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pools | LakwatseroAbout Bucas GrandeCoral GardenSagadaA Walk in Sangay Siapo Island Before it is Gone? | LakwatseroAmbaguio-Akiki ItineraryCorregidor Island Lighthouse (Faro dela Isla de Corregidor)Faro de Punta de Malabrigo (Malabrigo Point Lighthouse)About CulionNaidi Hill LighthouseBoquete IslandHow to Commute to Temple of LeahCatanduanes: The Heritage Church of Bato | Lakwatsero1. White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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