New Fathers 4 Justice protester Bobby Smith given community order after climbing onto roof of Stevenage Police Station dressed as Elmo
PUBLISHED: 18:34 08 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:37 12 April 2016
Stevenage-based New Fathers 4 Justice activist Bobby Smith has been given a community order and must carry out 100 hours of unpaid work after he was found guilty of aggravated trespass at Stevenage Magistrates' Court this afternoon.
Bobby, who is 33 and lives in Anderson Road, climbed onto the roof of Stevenage Police Station dressed as Elmo on February 15, and while up there put up banners and let off a flare.
The presiding district judge, Carolyn Mellanby, ruled that Bobby’s climbing onto the roof of the station entrance did cause disruption as police officers had to divert their attention to him for his own safety and that of others, and that it therefore constituted aggravated trespass.
It was also noted that it was firefighters who eventually brought him down.
Prosecutor Jessica Deuchar showed the court police video footage of Bobby on the roof lighting a flare, officers erecting a cordon around the entrance to the building for the safety of Bobby and passers-by, and of officers speaking with Bobby.
Bobby, who represented himself while wearing a T-shirt bearing his name and the slogans ‘Give Me Back Elmo’ and ‘#voteElmo’ – a reference to a nickname he has for his children – argued that he did not cause disruption.
“I believe they put up that cordon just for it to become aggravated,” he said.
“I didn’t make anyone scared. I just went up and did a peaceful protest.
“People still went about their daily business. No-one had their day disrupted.
“The only victims here are professional police officers. There’s nothing aggravated about what I’ve done.”
Mrs Deuchar said to Smith: “We have heard from all the officers – they were seriously disrupted policing your actions, when they could have been doing police business elsewhere.
“Waiting for the fire service to come, again I would say is a disruption – so not just the police but the fire service as well.”
Bobby told the court that he had not been able to hear PC Nicholas Redfearn, who could be seen speaking to him in the police video, and also put it to the court that the officer had taken it upon himself to decide to arrest him for aggravated trespass.
“They didn’t give the proper orders,” he said.
“PC Redfearn was not entitled to give that order. Neither the chief inspector or inspector said to me, ‘we think you must come down’.
“So far as I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
Wind made it difficult to make out what was said in the video, but Mrs Mellanby decided that PC Redfearn could be heard telling Bobby he would be arrested for aggravated trespass if he did not come down, and that police procedure was properly followed.
In addition to the unpaid work and the community order, she ordered him to pay £620 in costs, as well as a £60 surcharge.
While passing sentence, she said: “I hope this sentence will help you put something back into the community that you have taken out. “The officers were very patient.”
Speaking to the Comet outside the court, Bobby said: “I am going to appeal that to a higher court.
“It won’t stand up in a higher court and it’s harsh as well.
“It seems like anything I do for fathers’ rights, I get hit for it. It’s just a war against fathers.
“I love my children and I refuse to let them think that I’ve given up on them.”