Minicab leader assaulted two cops with sound from megaphone, court hears

14 January 2020, 12:58 | Updated: 15 January 2020, 07:23

James Farrar appeared at Southwark Crown Court
James Farrar appeared at Southwark Crown Court. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The chairman of a minicab union assaulted two police officers and used "unlawful force" by operating a megaphone near their heads during a protest, a court has heard.

UPHD chair James Farrar, 51, is in the dock for two counts of assault by beating of an emergency worker after he used a loudhailer near PC Ann Spinks and Sergeant James Lewis, during a demonstration against the congestion charge on March 4 2019.

Prosecutor Terence Woods told the court due to the volume and how close it was used to the officers caused significant pain to the pair.

"The defendant, Mr Farrar, was reckless in his use of the loudhailer and what he did effectively amounted to battery, an unlawful application of force," Mr Woods said.

Farrar, chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union, was taking part in the demonstration against Transport for London (TfL) in Parliament Square after the mayor of London's decision to make Uber and minicab drivers pay the congestion charge while exempting black cabs.

On Monday, potential jurors at Southwark Crown Court were asked during the selection process if they were police officers, black cab drivers or if they worked for TfL.

The court heard two protests took place on March 4, one with black cab drivers around noon and one with Uber and minicab drivers shortly after 4pm, organised with police by Farrar.

Mr Woods told jurors: "Nobody was actually beaten during the course of the incident of that day, despite what you heard when the indictment was read out to you."

As the protests included demonstrators bringing vehicles to Parliament Square, the police brought a flatbed truck to move any abandoned cars.

Mr Woods said officers moved in to clear demonstrators away from the truck after one protester climbed on to it and addressed the crowd using the megaphone.

"There came a time shortly after that the loudhailer was passed to the defendant, Mr Farrar, and he started to address the crowd and to complain about the police tactics," Mr Woods continued, adding that there was some pushing between demonstrators and police.

"Mr Farrar continued to use the loudhailer and what the prosecution complain about and the basis of the first count is that he used the loudhailer right by Pc Lewis's head, right next to his left ear, in fact.

"As he used the loudhailer he caused Pc Lewis significant pain to his ear. The police then push the defendant in with the other demonstrators.

"A short time later he does the same act very close to Pc Ann Spinks, in the police liaison outfit.

"He was acting recklessly, unlawfully, as he was shouting through the loudhailer where the officers were when they were trying to police in what we say was a lawful and reasonable manner."

Mr Woods told jurors both officers had pre-existing hearing conditions which were exacerbated by the volume of the megaphone.

He added that the injuries were "slight and transient" for both officers and cleared up within a short time.

Farrar, of Seymour Road, Bordon, Hampshire, denies the two charges of assault.

In an interview with police, he said he used the megaphone in the same way he had used it in previous demonstrations.

Farrar also told police the Uber drivers were treated differently by officers because they were mostly from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community.

Speaking outside court, Farrar told reporers: "All I can say is that I intend to defend the case vigorously. More broadly I'm very worried about the impact that this prosecution has on the future of protesting in this country."

The trial continues.

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