The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

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From The Guardian:

Magistrates were entitled not to convict an "ardent nationalist" who for two years launched into "Alf Garnett" style rants over the phone to his MP about asylum seekers and immigrants, the high court ruled today.

Two high court judges said Leicester magistrates had been placed in "a dilemma", but were entitled to decide that, although Leslie George Collins' remarks were offensive, they were not "grossly offensive" to a "reasonable person" under telecom laws.

However, Lord Justice Sedley, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting, warned that Mr Collins' references to "wogs, Pakis and black bastards" might well have been grossly offensive if those who heard the calls had been from an ethnic minority.

Lord Justice Sedley said: "The respondent [Mr Collins] had no idea, and evidently did not care, whether the person he was addressing or who would pick up his recorded message would be personally offended - grossly offended - by his abusive and intemperate language.

"It was his good fortune that none was, but this was nevertheless a fact which the justices were entitled to take account."

The judge said if Mr Collins, 60, had been speaking to a member of an ethnic minority, "it might well have been impossible, however stoically the hearer might have brushed it aside, to avoid the conclusion that the message was grossly offensive".

The judges were dismissing a bid by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to have Mr Collins convicted.

During a recent hearing which led to today's ruling, the judges were told that Mr Collins's rants were like those of Alf Garnett, the bigoted lead character from the 1960s television show from Till Death Us Do Part.

At the hearing, John Lloyd-Jones, appearing for the DPP, argued there was no place for Alf Garnett-style tirades in today's multicultural Britain.

He described how David Taylor, Labour MP for Leicestershire North West, and three of his constituency office staff were subjected to a two-year stream of calls, between January 2002 and January 2004, full of expletives from Mr Collins, with messages also left on the MP's answering machine.

Mr Lloyd-Jones said no one was seeking to restrain Collins from articulating his views "with ardour and vigour" but said no one picking up a phone should be subjected to the type of language Collins had used.

The recent hearing heard that Mr Collins was hostile and believed the government treated foreign nationals more favourably than British nationals, and they received financial advantages to which they were not entitled.

Leicester magistrates had refused to convict Mr Collins under the 1984 Telecommunications Act for making phone calls of a grossly offensive, obscene or menacing character. The magistrates ruled in October 2004 that Mr Collins's language was offensive - "but not grossly offensive" and dismissed the charge.

At the high court appeal hearing, Esther Harrison, appearing for Mr Collins, described him as "a blunt-speaking person but not a racist" and said his complaints were about the way the country was being governed.

Mr Taylor had warned Collins about his language, but he chose to ignore the warning, the DPP counsel had argued. Of the three members of Mr Taylor's staff who took the calls, one had found them upsetting, while another did not and the third said they were "depressing