One of the Gay News collective, Denis Lemon, was fined £5 when magistrate John Hooper decided to ignore his evidence at Great Marlborough Street Magistrate’s Court.
Denis was charged with the wilful obstruction of the footpath behind the Colherne pub in Earls Court — as reported in GN 5.
Magistrate Hooper started hearing the case on August 22 when police constable David Ford (480) of Chelsea Police said he’d warned Denis to move along four times. But when lunchtime came Mr Hooper decided to adjourn the case for three weeks.
PC Ford said he’d nicked Denis in Wharfdale Street where Denis had been standing in the middle of the road holding up traffic.
When the case started again on September 13, PC Ford had had his say, and Denis’ solicitor Mr Anthony Burton called Denis to give evidence.
He said: “I took photographs of police activity because of the number of allegations we have received of police harassment-outside the pub.
“I took a photograph of two policemen coming towards me and the flash-cube accidentally fell off my camera. I stooped to pick it up, without stopping, and they cautioned me to move on. I walked about 30 or 40 yards up the road to take pictures of the activity outside a coffee bar up the road to help us build up a dossier.
“I crossed the road and took more photographs and then I crossed back again to outside the Colherne and I was standing on the pub’s steps to take more photos, and the police warned me again.
“I walked around the comer in Colherne Road to take more pictures, and then I moved into Wharfdale Street and began to talk to about four people who were standing there, about the police activity.
“I was standing between two parked cars by the kerb. I was standing on the roadway, but there was no traffic for me to hold up.”
PC Ford said that Denis was standing in the middle of the road holding up the traffic. But, when it came to the case, he had very few questions to ask about the traffic.
Doug Pollard, another of the editorial collective, was with Denis when he came out of the Colherne. He said: “I had just come out of the pub when Mr Lemon came out. It was just before 11pm and he gave me a bag he was carrying so he could use his camera.
“He took a picture of two policemen and the flash-cube fell off his camera. As they were passing him the two policemen said something I did not hear to Mr Lemon, and he moved on immediately.”
Wolfgang G. von Jurgen, an actor, told the court: “I was in Wharfdale Road with a few other people and Mr Lemon was standing between two cars parked by the pavement.” Questioned by PC Ford, Wolfgang said:
“Mr Lemon was never standing in the middle of the road, and there was no traffic for him to obstruct.”
Summing up, Anthony Burton said:
“This is really a case where you have to decide whose version of the story you are going to accept.
“If there is to be an obstruction in law, there must be an obstruction in fact, and Mr Lemon may have obstructed the road but it was not wilful.
“Have we come to the day when serious inroads are to be made into the freedom of a press man doing his job? If there was an obstruction it was accidental and trivial.’
Magistrate Hooper, who wears a ring on his small finger left hand, said: “There was a large crowd outside this public house and I am satisfied that the defendant was cautioned to move on four times.”
Denis had pleaded not guilty to obstruction on Wharfdale Street. PC Ford’s mate was too sick to be in court to supply the magistrate with evidence to corroborate the police case, but John Hooper made his decision on one man’s evidence against the three defence witnesses.
Denis left the court in a turquoise zipper, leather jacket with matching slacks and dark blue shoes. He was accompanied by Mr J. D. Grinspoon.
In GN 8 Denis will be commenting on the decision and going further into the implications of the case.