We looked last summer at the law relating to throwing foodstuffs at politicians (further spoiler alert – it’s illegal). Well, Mr Frederick Glenister may not have read that because when Nigel Farage came to Nottingham on 1st May 2014 he let rip with an egg.
It wasn’t just that he was returning from shopping and took an egg out of his bag, he went to the local Tescos and bought a six pack. Suitably armed he returned to Mr Farage’s rally and did what any man with an egg and politician would do.
Mr Farage was unharmed (but his suit did have to be dry cleaned for an undisclosed sum). Mr Glenister was charged with Common Assault and pleaded guilty, being sentenced on 22nd May 2014 (appropriately enough the day of the European Elections) to a 12 month Conditional Discharge.
The news report from the Guardian contained some useful detail of the sentencing remarks. The starting point is the Assault Sentencing Guidelines (even though these are generally aimed at the Crown Court). Looking at page 23 and the news report, we can see that the magistrates put it in Category 3 – lesser harm and lower culpability, which must surely be right.
The starting point is a fine, with a range of a discharge to a fine. On that basis, Mr Glenister got what one would expect. One point with which I would disagree with the magistrates is where they say that the offence included “gratuitous degradation of victim“. Whilst it was embarrassing, I really don’t think that that was what the Council had in mind…
All in all, the sentence (being pretty much the lowest sentence you can get) is a fair one.
Why was he prosecuted? Why wasn’t he cautioned?
This seems to have featured in the mitigation (where his lawyer asked for an absolute discharge). Looking at when you caution someone, it would seem that this is a suitable case fora caution. Mr Glenister may not have any remorse (and may in fact be proud of what he did) but that doesn’t stop the fact that he did admit his guilt.
It is possible to challenge the prosecution on the basis that it is an ‘abuse of process’ as the public interest test is not met, although this is nigh on impossible (see Adaway  EWCA Crim 2831 as one example that would probably not succeed nowadays). We don’t know why this was prosecuted, but it was probably not such an outrageous decision that should mean that the court should have intervened.
The defence asked for an absolute discharge. This can only be given where there is no moral blame. In this case, whilst some may have applauded Mr Glenister, what he did was illegal and he knew it. For that reason, an absolute discharge would not have been appropriate.
Did the Guardian get the story right?
Well, it wasn’t perfect… the news report said that Mr Glenister had to pay ‘£200 costs’. Later in the story, it was clarified to say that ‘£200 costs order included £100 compensation to the victim‘. We suspect that that is also incorrect.
A standard costs order for this sort of case in the magistrates court would be £85. There is a mandatory £15 Victim Surcharge for a Conditional Discharge. This makes £100. Add in the Compensation and that makes £200. We guess that that is how the financial orders were broken down.
We have a fact sheet on Compensation Orders – the fact that the compensation was £100 doesn’t mean that the suit cost that much to dry clean. It could be more than that and Mr Glenister is not a wealthy man, or it could be less than that and Mr Farage got a bit of bonus for the embarrassment of being pictured in public with egg on his face.