LONDON: After the first two defendants in the Champion “drag-bust” case lost out to the authorities in early November (GN10) in an explosive atmosphere after the magistrate had cleared the public gallery, a new magistrate was fielded to hear the cases against the other three gays arrested at Notting Hill’s Champion pub.
But this new magistrate found all three guilty as charged, despite confused police evidence. As he said in his preamble to announcing that he thought they were all guilty: “The question is whether I can be sure that the police officer was telling the truth, or whether I should belive the defence evidence.”
So, deciding that it was more likely that the policeman had told the truth, he found Douglas McDougal guilty of obstructing the highway outside the Champion late on October 24 (reported in GN7), Richard Chappie and Peter Borne both guilty of obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty.
Certainly the magistrate gave the impression that their guilt was not “beyond all reasonable doubt” – the classic formula for a verdict to be arrived at — as far as he was concerned and it came as something of a shock after his “liberal” overture when he pronounced them all guilty and fined Douglas £5, and Richard and Peter £15 each.
All three conducted their own cases and dressed up for the occasion. The public gallery was filled with up to 20 gays supporting the three in the dock in various stages of “drag” and make-up.
At the beginning of both the morning and afternoon sessions the magistrate warned the gays in the public gallery that if he didn’t like the way they behaved he’d have them all thrown out. A warning he had to repeat halfway through the afternoon session.
Basically the evidence for the prosecution was given by PC Allen, of Notting Hill Police, who said that he’d arrested Douglas for obstructing the 15-feet-wide pavement outside the pub after a group of gays had been ejected from the pub at the landlord’s request. They had sat down as a protest against his refusal to serve men in “drag”.
PC Allen claimed that as he was leading Douglas to the police-van double-parked outside the Champion, Richard Chappie had jumped on his back and Peter Borne had grabbed his arm to stop him.
This was backed up by PC Alan Wiseman of Notting Hill, who said at first that he was sitting in the front of the van when Douglas was put into it, and later said he was standing by the doors, when he was pressed for that answer by the prosecuting solicitor.
Allen also claimed that Douglas had said that he was not going to be arrested by a member of the “working class”. PC Wiseman admitted he’d heard none of this.
What PC Wiseman did admit, however, when questioned by Douglas MacDougal, was that he had started to charge the three, leaving the room for a while to write up his notes and then returning to finish the charge procedure. But when he was questioned by the prosecution PC Wiseman was wise enough to change his story.
This neat sleight of tongue was completely ignored by the magistrate, as was the entire defence case.
Douglas said that he had never stopped walking, therefore he had never caused an obstruction. PC Allen, on the other hand, had called the gays “fucking queers” and had told him (Douglas) to “fuck off’ towards Notting Hill Gate which was not the direction that Douglas wanted to go. So he walked back, without stopping. It was then that PC Allen grabbed him add dragged him by the hair to the police-van.
Both Peter and Richard brought witnesses to say that neither was the type of person to go around hitting 15-stone policemen, who were already ‘over-excited’.
Summing up the case the magistrate said: “One of the things I have to ask myself is whether the comment about the ‘working class’ was made up by PC Allen or whether McDougal said this. I think it is a statement that most people are likely to use. And at the same time, it is unlikely that PC Allen would have made it up.” But even he didn’t sound altogether convinced.
When he announced the sentence the public gallery turned from a gentle smoulde of discontent to open amazement, with shouts such as “Why don’t you hang them while you’re at it?” people lighting up cigarettes and others noisily leaving in disgust.
LIBERATION NOTE: Gay Lib supporters suggested the reporters from Gay News and Lunch didn’t attend the second half of the case if the reporters valued their safety. Despite this intimidation, both Gay News and Lunch returned and reported.
FASHION NOTE: Quote from a Gay Libber to the Gay Newsman at the Champion case. Gay Libber looks down nose and says: “You don’t look very gay. You look like a Young Socialist.” This came from one of the current GLF power clique.