A Tommy Robinson supporter who called a TV reporter a ‘slag’ to her face has been fined and ordered to pay her £50 compensation.
Restaurant worker William Eve, 57, claimed in his defence that he didn’t perceive swearing or using the word ‘slag’ as insulting because he was from east London where it was “common” language.
Eve was cleared by magistrates of using “religiously aggravated” language when he asked Al Jazeera journalist Sonia Gallego if her employer was ‘Muslim-backed’.
He had admitted at an earlier hearing a charge of using intimidating language towards the reporter during a march in Westminster on July 14 last year
Miss Gallego posted a video clip of the incident on her Twitter page, which quickly went viral.
Eve was attending a ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ march in Westminster at the time and Miss Gallego was covering the event for the news channel.
Chair of the bench Tim McAndrews ordered Eve to pay a fine of £160, plus £115 in costs and £50 in compensation to Miss Gallego at the conclusion of his trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court.
Mr McAndrews said: “You have admitted your behaviour towards Miss Gallego was offensive and inappropriate and have already pleaded guilty to the offence of causing harassment, alarm and distress with intent on that day.
“The issue we have to decide is whether your demonstrated hostility towards her based on her presumed membership or association with a religious group, namely Islam.
“While we note your hostility we cannot be sure that hostility was caused directly by the religion of Al Jazeera’s proprietors. And, accordingly, we find you not guilty.”
Simon Maughan, prosecuting, applied for compensation for Miss Gallego.
He said: “It was a very unpleasant incident for her.
“She’s simply doing her job and offensive remarks have been levied at her.”
The court heard Eve has previous convictions, but the last was from 1996.
Matthew Humphreys, in mitigation, said: “He has been out of trouble for a considerable period of time.”
He said that up until recently Eve worked in his wife’s restaurant as a cook and earned £157 a week.
But Mr Humphreys said the court case has had a strain on their relationship,and Eve is now living on people’s sofas.
Mr Humphreys said: “He was until recently working at his wife’s restaurant.
My interaction with a Tommy Robinson supporter today… pic.twitter.com/7QU5j5Uagx
— Sonia Gallego (@SoniaGallegoAJE) July 14, 2018
“That’s all right now up in the air. His wife, I’m told, is very upset about this whole incident.
“It appears the restaurant has suffered as a result. He’s currently sofa surfing.”
And Eve said: “I’m sleeping at a friend’s house at the moment.
“This has really affected my family. The last time I was at court they printed my name and address of my wife.
“I wasn’t sleeping at that address. But people have gone over and abused my wife.”
During the trial, Eve, claimed in his defence that he did not perceive swearing or using the word ‘slag’ as insulting because he was from east London where it was “common” language.
Miss Gallego told City of London Magistrates’ Court said she had been on a break with a cameraman, producer and security advisor when Eve came towards them shouting: “Oi, who are you with?”
She said: “It was in quite an aggressive manner that got my attention.
“I looked up and the defendant was shouting at me, asking me who I was with.
“I believe I was smiling, my response was ‘who are you with?’ I was trying to take the aggression out of the situation by being light about it.
“He demanded to know who I was with.
“He was pointing towards me in quite an aggressive fashion.
“By this stage he was probably about three-quarters of a metre away from me.
“I immediately felt like I was being targeted. first of all for being a member of the press. It was quite obvious I was a member of the press, I told him that I was a journalist.
“He demanded to know with whom I was with and I told him Al Jazeera, and he responded by saying ‘Ok, yeah, so you’re Muslim-backed?’
When Miss Gallego asked what he meant by ‘Muslim-backed’, he responded: “Are you f*cking stupid, are you f*cking thick?”
Miss Gallego said: “I did feel more threatened then because his temper appeared like it was rising. I was very worried it was going to escalate.
“It’s already quite an intimidating situation. He took a step back and then took a step forward and said ‘you know what, you’re a slag’.
“Our personal security detail was saying ‘we should really get out of here, these guys are getting riled up’.
“We were slowly moving out of the area we were in. Then from that direction we were then pelleted with horse manure.”
Eve told the court that after the barrage of abuse was posted to Miss Gallego’s Twitter page, he has faced ‘accusations of racism’ that has caused him problems.
Eve said: “The saddest thing is I have been accused of being racist.
“And even worse is the problem this whole thing has caused.
“I don’t live at home anymore because of this. My wife’s business has been demolished because of this – because Miss Gallego thought it would be good to put this incident up on Twitter”.
He claimed he was ‘not a racist’ because he had previously lived in Asia for 22 years and was friends with a ‘little Muslim guy who runs a greengrocers’ by his wife’s restaurant.
Eve said he did not perceive swearing or using the word ‘slag’ as insulting because he was from east London and that was common language.
He said: “I swore at her, well I didn’t swear at her – it was just in the way that…I come from east London and everyone on the train coming here today I heard lots of people swearing.
“On the TV everyone swears, uses profanity.
“It’s the way that most people speak nowadays. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
Eve, of Rainham, Essex, admitted one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress, but was cleared of it being religiously aggravated.
He was fined £160 and ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge, £85 in costs and £50 in compensation to Miss Gallego.
By Adela Whittingham