Crown Prosecution Service to review decision not to prosecute prolific anti-Semite

Jeremy Bedford-Turner's case will be re-examined following a 13-month campaign 

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Wednesday 08 March 2017 02:05
Jeremy Bedford Turner addresses the small protest outside Whitehall in July 2015
Jeremy Bedford Turner addresses the small protest outside Whitehall in July 2015

The Crown Prosecution Service has agreed to review its decision not to prosecute a far-right activist known for making vitrolic speeches against the "Jewish world order".

In a July 2015 speech to an “anti-Shorim” rally on Whitehall, Jeremy Bedford-Turner said “all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.”

He claimed the West were “slaves” to the “Zionist agenda” which he said was responsible for the French Revolution and both World Wars.

He said the period during the Middle Ages when Jewish people were forbidden from entering England was a “merry” time for the country and called for them to be banned once more.

Gideon Falter, the chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), witnessed the speech and reported it to the CPS.

But after five months it decided not to prosecute the case – arguing that prosecuting Mr Bedford-Turner would breach his right to freedom of speech.

Following a 13-month campaign by the CAA, two days before they were due to appear in court to face a judicial review, the CPS agreed to look again at their decision not prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.

In documents submitted to the High Court on the eve of that review and seen by The Independent, the CPS has admitted the decision was legally wrong and agreed that it “is appropriate a fresh decision is made” because free speech does not extend to hate speech.

It agreed to consult the CAA in future when making decisions regarding similar cases against Jewish people and whether it can be regarded hate speech or free speech.

Brian Kennelly QC, the barrister preparing to take the CAA’s case to the High Court pro bono, told The Independent there is a concern that the CPS is too slow to act against hate speech and waits for actual threats of violence even though the law does not require it.

He said the CPS was quick to act in cases such as that of Luciana Berger Berger, a Jewish MP, who has been repeatedly targeted by far-right trolls online.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine was jailed for two years in December, after being found guilty of racially motivated harassment against Ms Berger.

But Mr Kennelly said "the CPS have been less willing to take action is in relation to pure hate speech."

He added: "Under the law there is a prohibition to inciting racial hatred so under the Public Order Act if someone uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour aimed at a racial group intended to stir up racial hatred is guilty of an offence.”

The fact that the CPS had agreed its decision was wrong before the matter could go to court showed “they really were concerned that they had got the law wrong”, he said.

“To win a judicial review you have to show the authority got the law wrong or did something totally irrational – not just wrong but so wrong no rational decision maker could make that decision”, he said.

Although there is a route by which you can challenge a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), he added that it was "very difficult to succeed because of that threshold".

This was especially prevalent when "the DPP is involved because the courts have said many times they do not want to second guess the DPP’s decision not to prosecute someone - that is a matter for his or her discretion,” he said.

A spokesman for the CPS told The Independent: “We have agreed that the prosecutor’s original decision not to charge should be reviewed by a more senior lawyer within the CPS. This decision follows the receipt of new advice from counsel concerning the way in which ECHR issues were considered as part of the decision making in December 2015. It would be inappropriate to comment further on the case at this time.

“Tackling hate crime is a priority for the CPS. In 2015/16 we prosecuted a record number of cases and made sure that more offenders than ever before had their sentences increased for crimes relating to race or religion.

“We work closely with leading organisations from the Jewish community to ensure that prosecutors are aware of the changing nature of anti-semitism in the UK.”