Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

BBC journalist felt like ‘prey’ as he was chased by protesters, court hears

A general view of Westminster Magistrates Court, London (Rick Findler/PA)
A general view of Westminster Magistrates Court, London (Rick Findler/PA)

A BBC journalist felt like “prey” as he was chased by protesters at an anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine rally, a court heard.

Nick Watt told Westminster Magistrates’ Court how he was “very scared” as he was pursued by demonstrators in Whitehall in June 2021.

Footage played in court showed protesters shouting in the face of the Newsnight political editor, who was wearing a BBC lanyard.

He walked away from the crowd as people shouted at him before he started running, eventually making his way behind the gates of Downing Street.

In the video, some can be heard shouting “traitor”, while another asked “how can you sleep at night?”

Alexander Peat (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
Alexander Peat (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Christopher Aitken, 62, Martin Hockridge, 58, Djazia Chaib-Eddour, 44, Alexander Peat, 34, and Gary Purnell, 45, all deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

On the first day of their trial, on Wednesday, Mr Watt said he had left his office in the parliamentary estate to observe the protest, which was initially “reasonably good natured”.

But he said the “atmosphere deteriorated”, prompting him to don his BBC lanyard to identify himself as press to police and demonstrators.

He told the court he decided to walk away, in the direction away from downing street, before he began to there was a “huge physical threat” as he ran to safety near number 10.

He told the court: “I used to be a runner, the calculation I made was that I could run faster than any of them.”

Mr Watt explained he was “like an express train” when he fled.

“I had become their prey, their quarry. It was like hunting a vulnerable animal”, he added.

Newsnight editor harassment court case
Martin Hockridge (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Prosecuting, Alex Matthews told the court a “frenzied incident was whipped up in joint fervour” and the five defendants “engaged in mob rule”.

Mr Watt told the court the experience had left him “very shaken”, adding that despite having covered unrest in Northern Ireland he “had never experienced” behaviour of that kind.

The court also heard how the incident had a long-lasting impact on his mental wellbeing.

He said: “We had to stop filing, nearly a year on later, as someone was shouting ‘traitor’ and coming up so there’s that practical effect but obviously the psychological impact of ‘what’s round the corner?’.”

During Mr Watt’s evidence, two people were removed from the public gallery for laughing.

Aitken, of Lambeth, Hockridge, of Harpenden, Herts, Chaib-Eddour, of Islington, Peat, of Wandsworth, and Purnell, of Shepherd’s Bush, were released on bail.

The trial continues.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]