Former Tory MP Bob Stewart has racial abuse conviction quashed

Veteran former Tory MP Bob Stewart has had his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence quashed at Southwark Crown Court. 

Bob Stewart has had his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence quashed at Southwark Crown Court. 

The veteran former Tory MP was convicted of a hate crime last November, after being deemed to have committed a “racially aggravated public-order offence” during an altercation with a heckler on the street.

He launched an appeal in December, which has been successful.

That’s great news. The FSU helped promote Mr Stewart’s legal crowdfunder, and a big thank you is due to all the FSU members and supporters who pledged their support!

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Mr Stewart “used racist language towards the victim”, and demonstrated “racial hostility likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to those present at the time”.

But raw footage of the incident reveals that the reality was rather different.

A video recorded by Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei from the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, shows him confronting Mr Stewart last December while the MP was leaving an event organised by the Bahraini embassy at the Foreign Office’s Leicester House.

Mr Alwadaei, who is off camera, can be heard accusing Mr Stewart of “selling” himself to Bahrain (the former Army Officer was stationed in Bahrain in the 1960s). Visibly annoyed, Mr Stewart responds: “Get stuffed. Bahrain’s a great place. End of.” A fractious exchange ensues, and at one point Mr Stewart can be heard telling Mr Alwadaei to “Go back to Bahrain”.

When a complaint was lodged by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy regarding Mr Stewart’s off-the-cuff one-liner about Mr Alwadaei “going back to Bahrain”, the Met Police launched an investigation.

Following the subsequent one-day trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mr Stewart was found guilty of racially abusing a member of the public, convicted of a racially aggravated public order offence and fined £600. The court also let it be known that Mr Stewart would have been fined just £400 had it not been for “the seriousness of the hate crime he committed”.

During the trial Mr Alwadaei was asked how Mr Stewart’s comments made him feel. “I feel that I was dehumanised, that I was someone who is not wanted in the UK, I did not feel safe after that incident,” he replied.

Summing up the bench’s decision to overturn the conviction, however, Mr Justice Bennathan said: “The fact that even after Mr Stewart’s abusive comment, Mr Alwadaei continued to address him in similar terms, and at a similar pitch, would scarcely suggest to an observer that he was caused any upset, alarm, or distress.”

As cautionary tales about the perils of perception-based policing go, it could hardly be improved upon. The fact the CPS ever considered this spat to be serious enough to warrant prosecution nicely demonstrates that what constitutes a ‘hate crime’ is determined not by any objective criteria, but by the sensitivities and political biases of those working for the state.