Self-styled “yellow vest” protester James Goddard has denied calling MP Anna Soubry a “Nazi” and a “traitor” during a chaotic court hearing which resulted in the judge adjourning proceedings part-way through.
Goddard, 29, pleaded not guilty to harassing the politician between December 18 last year and January 8 in Westminster.
He also denied one count of racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, and another count of harassment, alarm or distress, when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Goddard, wearing a white T-shirt featuring a British flag, a logo for The Directory Guys, a motif of three children’s faces, and the words “our boys”, repeatedly gesticulated to the packed and noisy public gallery during the hearing.
He is expected to rely on a defence of “fair comment”.
Addressing Judge Kenneth Grant from the dock, Goddard said: “It’s not illegal to heckle an MP. All of this is wrong.”
He also complained that he was called “a far-right fascist every day”, and drew raucous applause from the public gallery as he addressed the judge.
Judge Grant rose and temporarily adjourned the case 15 minutes into the hearing after several people in the public gallery began shouting about Brexit, made derogatory comments about Ms Soubry, and chanted: “Shame on you.”
Supporters chanted “Soubry is a Nazi,” commented on the perceived severity of his bail conditions by telling the judge that Goddard “is not a terrorist, you know”, and said a police officer briefly present in court would be “better off fighting knife crime”.
The hearing resumed to inform Goddard of his bail conditions, but descended into farce again soon after as the defendant left the dock complaining to the judge that he could not get a fair trial.
People in the public gallery shouted messages of support to the defendant as he left the court.
He will return for a two-day trial on July 19, during which Ms Soubry is expected to be among the witnesses. It is not known whether or not the Independent Group MP will give evidence in person.
Goddard, 29, from Timperley in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, denies one count of harassment without violence in which he allegedly shouted and chanted at Ms Soubry, pursued her, filmed her, called her “scum”, “Nazi” and “traitor”, and used other insulting language; one count of using threatening/abusive words/behaviour or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress; and one count of racially/religiously aggravated harassment/alarm/distress by words/writing, towards Pc Mindaugas Sciukas.
Goddard, who live-streamed his arrival at court, addressed swells of supporters outside upon its conclusion.