Nigel Farage milkshake attack: Man spared jail after admitting assault on Brexit Party leader

Paul Crowther ordered to carry out unpaid work and pay compensation after claiming act was a ‘right of protest’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 18 June 2019 12:04 BST
Nigel Farage hit by milkshake in Newcastle city centre

A man has been spared jail for assaulting Nigel Farage by throwing a milkshake over him, in one of a spate of similar incidents targeting right-wing figures.

Paul Crowther pleaded guilty to common assault and criminal damage at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

He launched a banana and salted caramel drink at the Brexit Party leader as he walked through Newcastle ahead of last month’s European elections.

At the time, the 32-year-old told journalists the act was “a right of protest against people like [Mr Farage]”.

“The bile and the racism he spouts out in this country is far more damaging than a bit of milkshake to his front,” he added.

Mr Farage said the attack sparked concern that the “democratic process cannot continue in a lawful and peaceful manner”, but a lawyer representing Crowther argued that throwing food did not amount to political violence.

The court heard that Crowther regretted his actions and has lost his job as a technical adviser at Sky, and received threats as a result.

District Judge Bernard Begley called the incident an “act of crass stupidity” while sentencing Crowther on Tuesday.

He was handed a 12-month community order including 150 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay Mr Farage £350 compensation and costs.

The compensation was for a damaged lapel microphone, suit cleaning, “distress and inconvenience”.

The court was played footage that showed Mr Farage walking away with his suit covered in the drink.

The Brexit Party leader could be heard rebuking a member of security staff and telling him he “could have spotted that a mile off”.

Crowther, of Throckley in Newcastle upon Tyne, was charged with common assault over the attack on Mr Farage and criminal damage of a microphone he was wearing during the incident on 20 May.

Prosecutor James Long told the court: “I suppose for the split second the attack took place, Mr Farage would not know whether it was a harmless liquid or something, in this day and age, far more sinister.”

He said it was clear from a Facebook post that Crowther made before the incident that he intended to throw milkshake on Mr Farage.

Man who milkshaked Nigel Farage tells cameras it was banana and salted caramel flavoured

But when interviewed by police, Crowther claimed it was a “moment of madness” and “loss of control”.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Farage said he was embarrassed by the incident and added: “I am concerned because of the behaviour of individuals like this, the normal democratic process cannot continue in a lawful and peaceful manner.”

Brian Hegarty, defending, said there was a long history of protesters throwing food at politicians and the act did not amount to political violence.

Mr Hegarty said the attack was not premeditated for long and argued that Crowther could have purchased a cheaper milkshake than the £5.25 drink used.

He said his client now regretted his actions, adding: “The defendant has had cause to reflect and, having done so, he would say he wished he would not have acted as he did.”

Crowther believed in democracy and did not want to be seen to be trying to silence people with whom he disagreed, the court was told.

Mr Hegarty said his client was not a “radical Remainer” and believes the 2016 referendum result should be respected, although Crowther thought we should leave under different terms from those suggested by the Brexit Party leader.

Paul Crowther was arrested immediately after the incident in Newcastle
Paul Crowther was arrested immediately after the incident in Newcastle (Reuters)

Since the incident he has suffered from repeated threats of violence and has had regular police checks to his home, the judge was told.

He has been dismissed from his job, “lost his good name” and threats have been made to a dog charity where he volunteered.

Chris Atkinson, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said he hoped that the case “acts as a deterrent to others considering any criminal form of political protest”.

“In an open democracy, people should be free to conduct legitimate political campaigns without fear of physical assault,” he added.

“While members of the public have the democratic right to engage in peaceful protest, it is wholly appropriate to bring charges in any case where such protests cross the line into criminal behaviour.”

Supporters of Crowther started a crowdfunding page entitled “Get Paul Crowther his milkshake money back”, which raised £1,705.

The incident sparked renewed national debate over the rising phenomenon of “milkshaking”, which first targeted the English Defence League founder and failed MEP candidate Tommy Robinson.

Carl Benjamin, a Ukip candidate and controversial YouTuber, was also doused and the tactic has spread to the US.

Additional reporting by PA

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