Herr Blair is going to really love this!!!!Anti-terror barrister offers to act over treatment of heckler
By Andrew Pierce
THE public relations fiasco over the octogenarian heckler who was forcibly ejected from the Labour Party conference could haunt Tony Blair for weeks to come.
One of Britain’s leading anti-terrorism lawyers has offered to mount a private prosecution for assault against the steward who manhandled Walter Wolfgang from the conference.
James Lewis, QC, who is representing the American Government in the extradition case against the extremist muslim cleric Abu Hamza, said that he would represent Mr Wolfgang free of charge. Mr Lewis, who has no political affiliations but whose wife is a member of the Labour Party, was appalled by the treatment of Mr Wolfgang, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in 1937.
“I was outraged, simply outraged. Mr Wolfgang has a prima facie case for assault. His physical manhandling was captured on the television cameras,” said Mr Lewis who regularly appears in the House of Lords and the Privy Council.
“Mr Wolfgang was lawfully present at the conference. If the prosecution is resisted we would call into court the policies and rules for conference. Where does it say in the rulebook that hecklers are neither permitted or will be forcibly removed after uttering only one word? It would also mean that we would rehearse all the arguments over whether Mr Wolfgang was right or wrong when he shouted the word ‘rubbish’ during the Foreign Secretary’s speech.”
Mr Lewis, who prosecuted the first case against an Afghan warlord, Aryadi Zardad, who was jailed for 20 years at the Old Bailey for a “brutal” campaign of torture in his homeland, said that he would question why Mr Wolfgang had been detained by the police under the Terrorism Act when he attempted to return to the conference centre.
If there were a criminal prosecution the steward Joe Ifill, 40, a former nightclub bouncer and Labour Party member for 20 years, would be summoned to face an assault charge. Another option would be for a civil prosecution against the conference organisers to seek damages for Mr Wolfgang.
Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, and Matt Carter, the general secretary, would be brought before the court in a civil case. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, might be called as a witness.
Mr Wolfgang, a vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who joined the Labour Party in 1948 when Clem Attlee was leader, was delighted with the offer from Mr Lewis. He said: “I am still angry and upset at the way I was treated, despite the apology from Mr Blair. I would be pleased to meet Mr Lewis to talk through my options.
“Obviously I would take advice from my friends first but I do think the steward should be called to account and I will be interested to hear what advice Mr Lewis can give me.”
Mr Wolfgang will meet Liberty, the human rights group, on Monday to discuss the possibility of a judicial review into his detention under the Terrorism Act.
A police spokeswoman said that Mr Wolfgang had not been arrested but detained because his security accreditation had been cancelled by Labour officials when he was ejected. She said: “The delegate asked the police officer what powers he was using. The police officer responded that he was using his powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to confirm the delegate’s details.”
Mr Ifill, a steward for five years, denied that he had manhandled Mr Wolfgang, a retired accountant from Richmond, southwest London. Mr Ifill, from Hove, said: “The whole thing has been blown up out of all proportion. At no time did we manhandle him. We used minimum force to take him from the conference hall and centre. He was very agitated.”
The other steward involved in the incident was Peter Killeen, a former Liverpool Labour councillor.
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