Judge GEORGE BATHURST-NORMAN 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON – A British judge who acquitted a group of anti-Israel activists who smashed up an arms factory near Brighton last year, causing damage of around £180,000 ($275,000), is being investigated for comments he made in summing up the case.
The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC), which supports the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice in their responsibility for the system of judicial complaints and discipline, has confirmed that it launched an investigation following comments Judge George Bathurst-Norman made in the trial of the anti- Israel activists, who attacked the factory to prevent “Israeli war crimes in Gaza.”
The activists, from a group called “Smash EDO,” claimed they had been legally justified in breaking into and sabotaging the factory of EDO MBM Technology near Brighton, Sussex, in January 2009, at the time of Operation Cast Lead.
In his summation, the judge compared Israel’s conduct during Cast Lead to the Nazi regime and commended the group’s leader, saying he should be awarded the George Medal – normally awarded for acts of civilian bravery. He also used language such as “war crimes,” “colonialization” and “ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel.
“It may be as you went through what I can only describe as horrific scenes, scenes of devastation to civilian population [sic], scenes which one would rather have hoped to have disappeared with the Nazi regimes of the last war, you may have felt anger and been absolutely appalled by them, but you must put that emotion aside,” Bathurst-Norman told the jury.
According to a spokesman for the OJC, the office “has has received a number of complaints in relation to Judge Bathurst-Norman’s summing up in a case at Hove Crown Court on 28 and 29 June.
Those complaints will be considered under the Judicial Discipline Regulations in the usual way. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”
Using the “lawful excuse” defense – committing an offense to prevent what they said was a more serious crime – the activists claimed EDO was “complicit in war crimes.”
The protesters threw computers and file cabinets out of windows and smashed machinery with hammers, believing that the company was sending arms components to Israel, and aiming to “slow down” the manufacture of components allegedly being sold to the Jewish state.
The seven admitted to breaking in and causing the damage, but were acquitted when the jury found them not guilty of conspiring to cause criminal damage, despite videotaped interviews in which the activists outlined their intention to cause criminal damage and “smash up” the factory.
“The judge’s summing-up seemed to be more of a character reference
for the defendants and an account of the iniquities of Israel and
America than a dispassionate appraisal of the evidence,” said Jon
Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
“Rather than test whether the defense of lawful excuse was available to
the accused, he appeared more intent on telling the jury why they would
be morally wrong not to acquit them.”
Jonathan Hoffman, vicechair
of the Zionist Federation, said that “Judge Bathurst-Norman behaved
more like the defense counsel than the neutral officer of the court that
he was supposed to be.”
He added, “This opens the door to any
group which thinks the British presence in Afghanistan is wrong to go
and smash up plants supplying British forces.”
acquittal, the activists celebrated outside the court with a banner
saying, “Shame on Sussex Police for protecting child murdering scum.”