A man has pleaded not guilty to appearing at a vigil for Sarah Everard during lockdown after a court tossed out his earlier conviction.
Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, is accused of participating in a gathering of more than two people in a public outdoor place in a Tier 4 area – Clapham Common, south London – on March 13 last year.
Tier 4 Covid-19 restrictions banned household mixing, aside from support bubbles, and two people meeting in public outdoor places.
Godin-Prior, of Debdale, Manchester, was convicted in his absence under the Single Justice Procedure – a paper-based process not held in open court – at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 1 alongside Dania Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, and Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, south London.
Each was ordered to pay a £220 fine, £100 in court costs and a £34 victim surcharge at the same court a week later.
I am requesting it to be reopened because I had no opportunity to respond to my case
But Godin-Prior appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to make a statutory declaration – a way of appealing against a magistrates’ court conviction if it occurred without the defendant’s knowledge.
Ben Stuttard, defending, said: “The background of this case is this is a prosecution arising out of the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common.
“Several people have been prosecuted without knowing it and they have been convicted in absence.”
Godin-Prior, who spoke via video-link as he self-isolated at home for Covid reasons, told the court he has experienced “frequent delays” to his post this year which meant he only received the notice of his prosecution on May 22, two days after the deadline given for him to respond.
The 68-year-old said he tried to contact authorities to request an extension to the notice to respond, to move the proceedings to a local court in Manchester due to his ill health and to let them know he intended to plead “not guilty” but he said he received no response.
Godin-Prior said he then “heard from a news report” that he had been convicted and was to be sentenced on June 9.
“I am requesting it to be reopened because I had no opportunity to respond to my case,” Godin-Prior said.
Magistrate Dr Lynn Gailey proceeded to toss out the conviction before ruling that the case could be reopened and a trial could go ahead.
She then gave Godin-Prior the opportunity to enter a plea to which he responded: “Not guilty.”
Prosecutor Jen Gatland asked the court to list Godin-Prior for trial on November 14-16 alongside Al Obeid.
On the prospect of others asking for their convictions to be quashed and their case reopened, Mr Stuttard added: “I gather it’s the prosecution’s intention to deal with them all together.”
A case management hearing ahead of Godin-Prior and Al-Obeid’s trial was scheduled for September 23 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Godin-Prior was one of six people prosecuted by the Met after the event on March 13 last year.
Jade Spence, 33, from Lambeth, south London, was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in her absence on June 15 and was handed a £300 fine, £110 in costs, and a £34 victim surcharge.
Both her and Wheeler can still apply for their cases to be reopened, it is understood.
Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, and Jenny Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, south London, pleaded not guilty by post.
Hohmann will face trial in front of a district judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on October 3 and 5.
Meanwhile, Edmunds will face trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court on October 28, 31 and November 1.
A planned socially distanced event proposed by Reclaim These Streets (RTS) was cancelled when organisers were threatened by the Met with £10,000 fines.
A spontaneous vigil – which followed the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard, 33, by serving Pc Wayne Couzens – was held but the Met’s policing was heavily criticised after women were handcuffed on the ground and led away by officers.
Out of a total of nine fixed penalty notices issued, another two were paid and one was dropped with no further action.
The Met was twice refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling which concluded they breached the rights of the RTS organisers.
Couzens, 49, is serving a whole-life sentence after admitting to kidnapping, raping and murdering Ms Everard.