No evidence union boss in megaphone noise ‘assault’ case had committed a crime

By Jess Glass, PA

The trial of a cab drivers’ union boss accused of assaulting two police officers by using a megaphone collapsed because there was no evidence he committed a crime.

James Farrar, 51, was cleared of two charges of assault by beating of an emergency worker after he used a loudhailer near Constable Ann Spinks and Sergeant James Lewis during a demonstration in London against the congestion charge on March 4 last year.

Mr Farrar, chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers’ branch of the IWGB union, organised a weekly Parliament Square demonstration against Transport for London (TfL) for exempting black cabs from the congestion charge but enforcing it for Uber and minicab drivers.

At the end of the prosecution case, Judge Philip Bartle QC told the jury at Southwark Crown Court to find Mr Farrar not guilty as there was no unlawful force in Mr Farrar using a megaphone at the protest.

Icah Peart QC, defending, said it was “violence to the English language” to say that using a megaphone was an application of force.

After the jury had been dismissed, Judge Bartle said: “It was very unfortunate indeed that this case arose at all in light of what had happened in the past. That’s all I can really say about that.”

Mr Farrar, of Seymour Road, Bordon, Hampshire, said the prosecution had been a “corrupt and crude attempt” to harm the trade union and that he was now considering a civil case against the Metropolitan Police for a malicious prosecution.

He told the PA news agency: “It was an attempt to take down and disenfranchise the union.

“The goal was to demoralise this group, to stop them organising and to stop them asking for more protections from the mayor.”

Mr Farrar formally complained on March 5 about differences in how the private hire protest, which was mostly attended by black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) people, had been policed when compared to a black cab driver protest of mainly white British people earlier that day.

The union branch founder said that policing of the two events was not even-handed and also complained about the use of force by police at the demonstration.

Mr Farrar said the prosecution arose less than two days after he submitted a second complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) on July 23 about how the demonstration had been policed.

“Within 48 hours of me escalating the complaint, there were charges,” he said.

James Farrar, fourth left, with Uber drivers outside Southwark Crown Court (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A spokesman for the Met said the decision to prosecute Mr Farrar was “completely unconnected” to the complaint.

The spokesman added: “Mr Farrar attended an interview under caution on April 4. A file of evidence was then presented to the CPS who advised their legal test was met for him to be charged with two counts of assault on an emergency worker. Mr Farrar was charged via postal requisition on July 25.”

He said the investigation into Mr Farrar’s complaint, which had been on hold due to the legal proceedings, would now continue.

Having organised the weekly demonstration in regular contact with the Metropolitan Police, Mr Farrar was told the private hire drivers would have to remain in their cars or be searched.

Mr Farrar told PA: “What they were trying to do was restrict their demonstration by telling them they to either stay in their vehicles and/or to allow the police to search their vehicles and allow the police to open the boots because of a terror threat.

“We did not refuse to comply with that, but we asked if the same restrictions had been placed on the black cab protests.”

He also criticised what he called the “incestuous relationship” between the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London, who were the target of the protest and who regulate private hire vehicles and black cabs in the capital.

Mr Farrar added: “Our figures show that 50% of private hire drivers have been assaulted at work and 85% have received racist or Islamophobic abuse.

“We can’t get Transport for London to do anything about it, but they have time for this.”

The union chair said he faced “crippling costs” of tens of thousands of pounds from the prosecution, of which only a small portion may be paid back from the court without a civil suit.

A TfL spokeswoman confirmed the prosecution was brought by the Metropolitan Police and that TfL had no role in it.

She added: “Violence against drivers from customers is a criminal matter and is dealt with by the police. In terms of our role as a regulator – if a driver was assaulted by another driver then of course we would investigate and look to take action.”