Great Britain

Man, 57, charged after BBC journalist Nicholas Watt hounded by angry anti-lockdown mob as cops review ‘inaction’

POLICE have charged a man after a baying mob of anti-lockdown protestors chased BBC Newsnight’s political editor into Downing Street. 

Nicholas Watt was surrounded by an angry gang who called him a "c***" and blocked his path as he tried to escape.

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Police have now charged a 57-year-old man with using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards another person with the intention to cause distress.

Martin Hockridge, of Harpenden, was identified after the footage went viral when it was posted on social media. 

Metropolitan Police officers have launched an investigation after concerns were raised over the police response during the incident on Monday. 

Mr Watt was first captured on video walking quickly through Whitehall near police in high-vis jackets.

In the footage, the journalist - who wore a blue BBC lanyard around his neck - was then followed closely by a man wearing a leather waistcoat and a blonde woman in a minidress who pointed their fingers at him.

Mr Watt, who wore a blue face mask, then turned to escape their path - only for a crowd of around 15 to chase him across a road.

But more quickly followed - and the campaigners turned nasty, chanting abuse at him as he kept his head down.

One man in a navy jacket then grabbed Mr Watt by the shoulder as he recorded the incident with his mobile phone.

Others shouted at him: "Why have you lied?"

The reporter was finally forced to run away as the crowd pressed in and began booing.

He returned to the line of cops - and pushed through a barrier into Downing Street to escape as protesters shouted: "Shame on you."

A spokesman for BBC News said: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable.

"All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Officers investigating an incident in which a journalist was confronted and chased in the vicinity of Whitehall have charged a man.

“A video that has been shared widely on social media shows a group of protestors pursuing the journalist first on Whitehall, then into Richmond Terrace, on the afternoon of Monday, 14 June.

“After reviewing the video footage, officers identified a number of possible offences and an investigation was launched.

“On Tuesday afternoon, Martin Hockridge, 57, of Harpenden, was interviewed under caution at a Hertfordshire police station.

“Later the same evening, he was charged with an offence under Section 4A of the Public Order Act, namely using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person with the intention to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.

“Hockridge will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 29 June.

“Enquiries are ongoing to identify other people who were involved in the incident and detectives are appealing for the public’s help.

“Anyone with information should call 101 or tweet @MetCC. Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers, anonymously, by calling 0800 555 111.”

PROTEST FURY

Ex-GMB host Piers Morgan has hit out at the footage, writing: “Disgusting ignorant scum. Too thick to realise this journalist has nothing to do with Govt policies.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted: "Disgraceful to see the hounding of Nick Watt doing his job.

"The media must be able to report the facts without fear or favour – they are the lifeblood of our democracy."

BBC newsdesk duty editor Neil Henderson tweeted the video, commenting: “A BBC Correspondent doing his job in Whitehall yesterday. Where does this end?”

Fellow BBC journalist Allie Hodgkins-Brown slammed the mob, writing on Twitter: “This is awful. In Central London 2021. Disagree with us fine. Switch us off fine but no journalist deserves this.”

Stefan Simanowitz added: “Disturbing footage of BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt, being pursued by anti-lockdown protesters

“@umairh wrote recently ‘Britain — the gentle, wise, intelligent, expansive one — was put to the torch. It became a nation afflicted by a fever dream of nationalism’.”

Protests outside Downing Street as Boris Johnson delays lockdown easing

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