James Goddard given restraining order after calling Independent journalist ‘vile scum of the earth’ in court confrontation

Chiara Giordano
·3 min read
<p>James Goddard pictured outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court in June 2019</p> (PA)

James Goddard pictured outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court in June 2019

(PA)

Far-right activist James Goddard has been handed a fine and given a restraining order after abusing an Independent journalist outside a packed courtroom.

Goddard was found guilty on Thursday at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court of a public order offence relating to a confrontation with home affairs and security correspondent Lizzie Dearden.

Goddard, who was a prominent figure in pro-Brexit ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations, called Ms Dearden “scum of the earth" and “vile” at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in March 2019.

Ms Dearden was at the court to cover the trial of Goddard, 31, who had been charged with harassing pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry and calling her a “Nazi”.

Goddard recognised Ms Dearden, who has reported extensively on the far right, and acted toward her in an “aggressive manner", Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court was told.

In finding him guilty, district judge Andrew Sweet said Goddard had been “threatening and abusive” towards Ms Dearden.

Giving evidence, Ms Dearden said she arrived outside the courtroom where Goddard’s hearing was being held but at that moment the defendant “came out walking extremely fast”.

The journalist told the court she “took a step back” but Goddard “seemed to recognise” her and “started shouting… ‘that’s Lizzie Dearden from The Independent’.”

She added: “He started walking towards me quite fast. I remember hearing the words ‘vile’ and ‘scum of the earth’. My immediate reaction was to get into the court to get away from him.”

Ms Dearden said she was unable to get into the courtroom because staff told her it was full.

Asked by prosecutor Leo Seelig how she felt, Ms Dearden said: “I was frightened when he came towards me, he is quite a big guy and he looked extremely angry.”

Carly-May Kavanagh, who was with Ms Dearden at the time of the confrontation, described Goddard as “aggressive and confrontational”.

She said: “He was raising his voice, he was shouting about Lizzie but he also stepped towards us, and it was at that point I walked off because I was worried it could get physical.”

General view of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in LondonAFP via Getty
General view of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in LondonAFP via Getty

District judge Andrew Sweet stopped the proceedings on a number of occasions to tell Goddard, from Greater Manchester, to stop interrupting from the dock.

Taking the stand, the defendant, who was accompanied by several supporters in the public gallery, told the court there were “hundreds” of people at his March 2019 trial and he felt “very anxious” because of a large police and press presence.

Goddard said the exchange with Ms Dearden happened as he was coming out of the court, when he “laughed and said ‘ha you’re not coming in, you scumbag’.” He denied referring to Ms Dearden as “vile scum of the earth”.

Goddard denied his words or behaviour were threatening or abusive. He added: “If you can’t be called a scumbag maybe you are in the wrong profession, maybe you shouldn’t be a journalist, maybe you should go work in a warehouse.”

James Goddard pictured after leaving a police station in central London in January 2019Reuters
James Goddard pictured after leaving a police station in central London in January 2019Reuters

The defendant faced one charge of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

Sentencing, district judge Andrew Sweet said: “I have considered the evidence carefully and I am satisfied Mr Goddard did say towards Ms Dearden ‘vile scum of the earth’, this was heard by Ms Dearden and Ms Kavanagh who had simply met on that day.

“I’m further satisfied Mr Goddard acted in an aggressive manner towards Ms Dearden – so much so she wanted to get into the courtroom for safety.

“His words and behaviour taken together were abusive and disorderly. I’m satisfied that he intended his words and behaviour to be threatening and abusive. The charge is proved.”

Goddard was ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge, £250 fine and court costs of £500.

He was also handed an indefinite restraining order banning him from contacting Ms Dearden.

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