Hamish McCallum secures not guilty verdict for pro-Palestine protestors

19 December 2023

Hamish McCallum protest win

Protestors who squirted tomato ketchup on to a statue of Arthur Balfour in the members’ lobby of the House of Commons have been found not guilty of criminal damage.

The protest by Palestine Action was timed to coincide with the 105th anniversary of the ‘Balfour Declaration’ – the controversial declaration by the British Government in 1917 which became a core component of the British Mandate for Palestine and is considered to be a principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

This case is thought to have been the first trial to take place in the Crown Court as a result of Section 50 of the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 – which amended the mode of trial for low value criminal damage to memorials.

Legal argument during the trial included whether the protest amounted to damage, whether the defendants had a lawful excuse in accordance with their right to freedom of expression protected under Article 10 of the EHRC, and also due to their belief that the public would consent to their protest as a form of expression and if they were aware of the history, consequence and legacy of the Balfour Declaration.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court returned unanimous verdicts on 18 December 2023 following a week-long trial.

Hamish McCallum of our Protest Rights team represented the first defendant, instructed by Kellys Solicitors. Sarah Vine KC from Doughty Street Chambers represented the second defendant.

Read more about the protest in the links below.

The Guardian.

The Evening Standard.

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