Man with ‘delayed maturity’ jailed for harassing Chris Whitty

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
<span>Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA</span>
Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

A man has been jailed after admitting harassing England’s chief medical officer, Sir Chris Whitty, by filming him with a phone against his will.

Footage of the incident last June, which was shared widely on social media, was shown at the trial of Jonathan Chew, 24, at Westminster magistrates court.

It showed Chew, alongside Lewis Hughes, jeering at Whitty and holding him. Hughes was given a suspended sentence last year.

But the district judge Paul Goldspring handed Chew an eight-week sentence and ordered him to pay £1,058 in costs and compensation.

Chew, from Chelmsford in Essex, whistled when the custodial sentence was read out. He was also reprimanded by the judge for vaping while the costs were ordered. “Are you smoking? You are not allowed to vape in court,” Goldspring said.

Explaining the costs, the judge said: “I wouldn’t normally impose costs as well as an immediate custodial sentence but I do so because your contempt for these proceedings has been breathtaking.”

Chew sang “West Ham till I die” as he was led away.

For the defence, Rabah Kherbane argued in mitigation that Chew had learning difficulties, including ADHD and “delayed maturity”, and was autistic.

Goldspring said those factors were not significant in sentencing.

He said: “Your behaviour doesn’t give me any confidence that your remorse is genuine. I accept that you suffer from autism, learning disabilities and some other issues, including a lack of maturity.

“I accept that initially, at least, your intention was not hostile, intimidatory or humiliation. I’m afraid it very quickly turned into all of those things.”

He added: “You and Mr Hughes came across Professor, now Sir, Christopher Whitty, and it appears that you have a penchant for having your photograph, or selfie, to be taken with people who you consider to be celebrities.

“You asked for a selfie and once you were told no, it was obvious even to you, with autism, that Prof Whitty was very uncomfortable, slightly intimidated, perhaps humiliated by you filming him. You persisted and you placed your hands on him.”

The judge praised Whitty for the “great professionalism under a great deal of pressure” he had shown during the Covid pandemic.

Addressing Chew, he said of Whitty: “He didn’t choose to be in the public. He is entitled to go about his daily life without the fear of someone like you.

“I also sentence you on the basis that there should be a deterrent for targeting those who do not choose to be in public eye, from behaviour like this.”

He added: “Your offending in my view very clearly crosses the custody threshold. You targeted him in the sense that you recognised him from the TV.

“Secondly, although you did not upload the video, you were complicit by sharing; you added to the humiliation. In my view that was your intention.”

The court heard that Chew had a long criminal record that included five offences against a person, and three public order offences.

Goldspring said: “You were on licence at the time, and you have a significant and I would say appalling criminal record. And in particular, you have relevant convictions for public order offences.”

Goldspring also chided Chew for obstructing police officers. He said: “You chose to give your brother’s name. Unfortunately, that wasn’t something you put right immediately or indeed ever.

“Eventually you were caught up with because you and your mother gave an interview to the Sun newspaper. You persisted with your not guilty plea in relation to overwhelming evidence of obstruction all the way up until the day of trial.”

Chew was given two weeks in prison for obstructing the course of justice, to run currently with his eight-week sentence.

Hughes, 24, of Romford in east London, earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of assault by beating and was sentenced last July.

He was handed an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to pay a total of £307 in fines and compensation. He was sacked from his job as an estate agent after the incident.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting