Pro-hunt protesters convicted of invading Commons

Pro-hunting campaigners who stormed into the House of Commons during a debate on the Foxhunting Bill have been convicted of public order offences.

The so-called Westminster Eight - who included the rock star Bryan Ferry's son Otis - were found guilty of causing "harassment, alarm or distress" by invading the Commons.

They were convicted by District Judge Timothy Workman after a four-day trial at Bow Street magistrates' court in London. The men each received an 18-month conditional discharge and were ordered to pay £350 costs each.

Ferry, 22, is master of the South Shropshire hunt and was the main organiser, the court heard. The other defendants included Luke Tomlinson, 28, a professional polo player and friend of Prince William and Prince Harry.

As thousands of pro-hunting campaigners demonstrated outside Westminster on 15 September last year, the men donned builders' outfits, including fluorescent jackets and hard hats, and told police and security guards that they were there to do renovations. After being cleared to go through Parliament's St Stephen's entrance, they dumped their disguises in a committee room and went through a broken security door and down the Ladies Stairwell.

Doorkeepers stopped three of them getting into the chamber but four - including Ferry - emerged from behind the Speaker's chair. Tomlinson ran in from an entrance opposite the Speaker's chair. The men were all wearing white T-shirts which bore the slogan "FCUK the Bill".

One of them said that he sat down on the Government front bench, next to the then Rural Affairs Minister, Alun Michael, and said: "Right ho, let's have a debate then."

In court the protesters claimed it was a peaceful demonstration and there was no intention to intimidate or threaten MPs. Ferry, from Eaton Mascott, Shrewsbury, said: "I had not picked up a plank of wood or anything. It was my way of getting my feelings across so that people would actually listen." He claimed that as he was addressing Mr Michael he was grabbed and "throttled" by a doorkeeper.

Danny Scanlon, a doorkeeper, said he had been kicked by one of the protesters and that, at first, he thought the protest was "some sort of terrorist attack". Mr Scanlon said: "One of them was sitting in the Prime Minister's chair, shouting at the Opposition spokesman. It was utter confusion, chaos and panic. It was bedlam."

Mr Michael told the court he had felt "shocked, angry and affronted" and the situation was "very worrying".

In addition to Ferry and Tomlinson, the defendants were David Redvers, 34, a horse breeder from Hartpury, Gloucestershire; Richard Wakeham, 36, a surveyor from York; Nicholas Wood, 41, a chef from Lacock, Wiltshire; John Holliday, 42, a huntsman from Ledbury, Herefordshire; Robert Thame, 36, a polo player from Maidenhead, Berkshire; and Andrew Elliott, 43, an auctioneer from Ledbury.

Mr Workman said he was satisfied their conduct was disorderly and had caused alarm.