Defend trade unionists from police prosecution for use of a megaphone

by United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union.

Defend trade unionists from police prosecution for use of a megaphone

by United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union.
United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union.
Case Owner
Help us raise £27,000 to defend against prosecution for the alleged assault of two police officers by way of sound from a megaphone. Together, let's stop police persecution of trade unionists.
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United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union.
Case Owner
Help us raise £27,000 to defend against prosecution for the alleged assault of two police officers by way of sound from a megaphone. Together, let's stop police persecution of trade unionists.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Jan. 21, 2020

Funds urgently needed: The trial collapses but the struggle goes on

James’ trial at Southwark Crown Court has collapsed! However, we need your support now more than ever. Despite the win, our union is left with crippling debt to pay our legal bills even after a…

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James’ trial at Southwark Crown Court has collapsed! However, we need your support now more than ever. Despite the win, our union is left with crippling debt to pay our legal bills even after any defence cost award from the court. We believe the prosecution was political and represents a worrying attack on the rights of trade unionists to organise and protest.

Please pledge what you can. If we allow the union to be hobbled by debt associated with the successful defence against this malicious prosecution then we’ll have let them win.

James Farrar, defendant and Chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union said: This was a corrupt and crude attempt by the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London to break our union and further disenfranchise precarious workers. I now call on the Mayor of London to conduct an urgent investigation into this case and ensure those responsible are held to account. I have now instructed my lawyers to pursue this matter.


Yaseen Aslam, General Secretary of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union said: 
We believe this case came about because of deeply rooted corruption and institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London. It was an attack not only on James Farrar, but on the fundamental rights of 110,000 minicab drivers licensed by Transport for London.

Raj Chada, Solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen said: This was a disgraceful prosecution of a trade union activist for using a loud hailer. In all my years as a criminal lawyer, I have never experienced an argument that soundwaves constitute assault – we’re amazed that it ever got this far. We have maintained from the start that the investigation into Mr Farrar on these spurious allegations began after he made a complaint against the police behaviour that day. We are concerned that there is a risk that this prosecution was a smoke screen to divert attention away from how the Metropolitan Police and TFL are treating Mr Farrar’s union members - we are advising Mr. Farrar about action to take against the Metropolitan Police.

(Click on the update box at the top of the page for more information about what happened in court.)

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Help!

James Farrar is facing trial at Southwark Crown Court accused of assaulting two police officers at a trade union demonstration. There allegation relates to sound emanating from a megaphone and no physical contact is alleged. We are hoping to raise £27,000 to defend this case and to protect the rights of future protesters to assemble on the streets without fear of similar prosecution.

What's at stake?

As a small trade union who represents mostly BAME workers in precarious employment we are desperately worried about the chilling affect this prosecution will have on grassroots trade union organising and activity in this country. 

If the CPS successfully convicts James then no trade union activist or protester will be safe from police prosecution for something as minor as using a megaphone, a drum, a whistle or even for shouting too loudly. 

In short, the right to assembly, free speech and public protest is gravely threatened by this police over reach.

Please donate what you can (any amount makes a huge impact) and share this page on your social media and via email/WhatsApp.

About the defendant

James Farrar is founder and Chair of the United Private Hire Driver's branch of the IWGB trade union, now the largest trade union for minicab drivers in the UK. He is also the co lead claimant with Yaseen Aslam in the successful worker rights claim against Uber. 

Background to the case

From January through April 2019, the union staged weekly demonstrations in London against the Mayor and Transport for London's decision to remove the congestion charge exemption from minicab drivers while keeping it in place for black cab drivers. The union argued that the decision to make precarious workers pay an additional £200 per month for environmental charges was unfair and that Uber should be charged for it so the cost could be passed on to the consumer rather than low paid workers.

James is imminently facing a criminal trial at Southwark Crown Court, accused of assaulting two police officers at an official trade union demonstration at Parliament Square on March 4th, 2019. 

However, the police do not allege that he physically touched the two police officers or threatened any violence. Instead, he is accused only of using a standard megaphone during the course of the protest which the police officers allege caused them pain and discomfort. 

To convict, the prosecution must prove he intentionally hurt the police officers or was reckless in his actions which led to injury. He vehemently denies both. If convicted James faces a sentence of up to one year in prison, a fine or both. 

We cannot compromise the integrity of the trial by discussing the evidence in advance but suffice to say we will be releasing all the video evidence after the case has been concluded so you can see for yourself what this is all about. 

Why does this case matter?

Besides rigorously defending James personally the lawyers in this case will also argue to defend important elements of the law that serve to protect all of us. They will argue:

  • sound waves do not constitute force and there was neither assault nor battery
  • the judge and the jury must consider freedom of association and freedom of speech rights as protected under Articles 10 & 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Since the allegations and charges were made after the union had filed official complaints with the Metropolitan Police over their behaviour that day, we are also considering making an abuse of process argument during the trial. 

Funding needed

We are aiming to raise £27,000 to support James' legal defence at the Crown Court. He is represented by Raj Chada of Hodge Jones Allen. Raj is one of the best lawyers in the UK for defending protesters from legal action. There is no legal aid available for this case so we rely on your kind support. Any excess funds will be held  by the union to take further action to defend the rights of minicab drivers and other precarious workers.

Thank you for you support. We appreciate any donation no matter how much. Your solidarity means a lot to us. 

Update 1

United Private Hire Drivers' branch of the IWGB union.

Jan. 21, 2020

Funds urgently needed: The trial collapses but the struggle goes on

James’ trial at Southwark Crown Court has collapsed! However, we need your support now more than ever. Despite the win, our union is left with crippling debt to pay our legal bills even after any defence cost award from the court. We believe the prosecution was political and represents a worrying attack on the rights of trade unionists to organise and protest.


Please pledge what you can. If we allow the union to be hobbled by debt associated with the successful defence against this malicious prosecution then we’ll have let them win.


What happened in court?


After the prosecution rested last week, James’ legal team made a successful application to the court for the case to be thrown. After three days of the prosecution presenting its case to the jury, the judge ruled that they failed to present a shred of evidence that a crime was ever committed.


The prosecution could not show that he had illegally applied any force so neither an assault nor a batter could have taken place.


The judge also commented that it was “very unfortunate indeed that this case arose”.


Immediate reaction outside the courthouse


Watch the reaction on the court house steps:
https://twitter.com/United_PHD/status/1217770069914157061
https://twitter.com/IWGBunion/status/1217769378978107392


What people are saying about the case?


We have been very pleased with the outpouring of support and sympathy for our union over this complaint.


John McDonnell MP said: https://twitter.com/johnmcdonnellMP/status/1217888181288349696
I was pleased to support James in his case and congratulate him on his stand. Solidarity.


London Assembly Member Caroline Russell said: https://twitter.com/CarolineRussell/status/1217834082136199170
This case against should never have been brought. Terrible that James has faced accusation of assault by megaphone and had to join so many others in defending the right to peacefully protest.


Jeremy Vine, BBC broadcaster said: https://twitter.com/theJeremyVine/status/1218076786136899584Anyone else think this (failed) prosecution of James Farrar looks spectacularly inept or even dodgy? “Assault by megaphone” sounds like the kind of charge they'd invent in Iran


Press coverage:


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/16/trial-of-union-leader-for-assault-by-megaphone-collapses
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7894511/Judge-dramatically-THROWS-case-against-cab-union-boss.html
https://metro.co.uk/2020/01/16/taxi-union-boss-cleared-assaulting-police-megaphone-due-no-evidence-12069992/
https://news.sky.com/story/taxi-union-boss-found-not-guilty-of-assaulting-police-with-loud-megaphone-11910043
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-51135980


Please pledge to help us fund our defence of the right of everyone to protest. Don’t let them win by saddling a precarious worker’s union with legal related debt. Help us get back to what we do best.


Any excess funds will be ploughed into legal support of rights for minicab drivers and other precarious workers.

Thank you so much for your support.

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