EIGHT PRO-HUNTING protesters who evaded security to burst into the House of Commons chamber during a debate on the hunting With Dogs Bill in September were charged with disorderly conduct on Monday of this week.
All eight, including Otis Ferry, the son of the Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry, were due to attend a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to face charges of breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act. If found guilty, they faced a maximum fine of up to £5,000 or six months in jail.
The group said they would all plead not guilty and maintained they had no regrets at carrying out their action.
It is alleged they had pretended to be builders to get into the chamber and succeeded in bringing the debate to a halt before they were ejected from the Chamber by Commons security staff, headed by the Sergeant-At-Arms. The ‘invasion’ of the Commons prompted serious questions from MPs over parliamentary security and calls to replace the ‘Men In Tights’ with armed police.
Outside Charing Cross police station in central London on Monday afternoon, Ferry, 22 - wearing a pro-hunting T-shirt depicting Tony Blair with red devil horns - said: "We did nothing wrong, beyond only the obvious, which was to stand up for our rights and not act like sheep, like the rest of the country. I have no regrets whatsoever. This Government has put a law forward that won't be enforced or policed."
The group's solicitor, Michael Knight, said that at no time had any of the men considered that they might be breaking the law.
"There is no offence of trespassing in the House of Commons," he said. "It is not a criminal offence. If Parliament wanted to make entering the House of Commons chamber on foot a criminal offence it should have done so, but it can't do so retrospectively.
"We are not prosecuted for that. We are prosecuted for a Public Order Act offence. We are not guilty of it."
Mr Knight continued: "What you have to remember is that these men were arrested for burglary, forgery and violent disorder and the resulting investigation has resulted in the lowest possible charges."
David Redvers, 34, a horse trainer who rides with the Ledbury hunt, said: "None of us had intended to cause distress or cause threatening behaviour. We do not believe we caused distress to anyone.''
Asked if they had scared the MPs, another of the group, Luke Tomlinson, 27, a close friend of Princes William and Harry, responded: "No, the majority were laughing. I regret there weren't more MPs in the chamber at the time debating something that is extremely important."
The others charged were John Holiday, 38, a huntsman from Ledbury, Herefordshire, Robert Thame, 35, who plays polo with the Prince of Wales, Andrew Elliot, 42, an auctioneer from Bromesberrow, near Ledbury, Richard Wakeham, 36, a jockey from York, and Nick Wood, 41, a former royal chef.
At the time of OUR DOGS going to press, no verdict on the eight’s case had been given.