Man who called Newsnight journalist Nicholas Watt 'traitor' denies public order offence

Man who called Newsnight journalist Nicholas Watt 'traitor' denies public order offence

A man who called Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt a “traitor” as the BBC journalist was chased near Downing Street has denied a public order offence.

Martin Hockridge (pictured), 57, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress on 14 June.

Crowds had gathered in Westminster to protest against the Government’s extension of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks.

Dressed in black boots, dark jeans, and a camouflage military-style jacket, Hockridge spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address before entering a not guilty plea to the single charge.

The court heard Hockridge, from Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, does not deny calling Watt a “traitor” and the journalist will not be called as a witness during a trial on 8 November.

His solicitor Gemma Motion said Hockridge denies the word was threatening, abusive or insulting or that it would be perceived to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Hockridge was arrested after footage shared on social media showed demonstrators confronting Watt near Richmond Terrace and Whitehall.

Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard, was forced to run through the mob beyond a line of police officers as people shouted at him.

Hockridge was released on conditional bail by District Judge Angus Hamilton ahead of the trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

A second man, Christopher Aitken, 62, from Brixton, has also been charged with a public order offence over the incident, and has been bailed to appear at the same court 22 July.

A BBC News spokesperson said following the incident: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable. All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.”

Picture: PA Wire/Stefan Rousseau

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