Why won't the Met Police prosecute those who disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra?

Is the policy of the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service to not apply the criminal law of England and Wales to those who disrupt Israeli arts events even if the evidence is there?

Conductor, Zubin Mehta waits for order to be restored inside the Royal Albert Hall
Julian Hunt
On 10 January 2012 15:56

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is not part of the government of the State of Israel. It does not vote in the Knesset. It does not fight. It does not negotiate with other countries or organisations. It does not militarily protect a country constantly under threat from those who would destroy it. It does not sit on UN commissions. 

I say that simply to emphasise its singularity. It is an independent, world renowned orchestra in the business of making music, like any other national orchestra.

On September 1st 2011 the IPO held a concert in the Royal Albert Hall. The concert - and the live BBC transmission - was disrupted by a small group of protesters, shouting, screaming and singing a version of Ode to Joy over the music of the orchestra. The majority of these protesters had known links and affiliations with organisations known for their antipathy towards Israel.

Security staff at the venue had to forcibly remove these protesters. Audience members were wholly opposed to this hijacking of a peaceful concert for political ends, booing and slow clapping the protesters. The concert - the show - did go on but the evening was understandably marred.

BBC reports make it clear there was no sympathy whatsoever inside the Albert Hall for these protesters who had taken the clever, tactical and cunning line of sitting in separate parts of the venue as opposed to bunching themselves together. They further disrupted the orchestra at different times making a mass expulsion all the more difficult.

Complaints were made to the Metropolitan Police about the conduct of these "protesters", a term I use in a very loose sense of the word. Not just one complaint but several complaints were received about an incident which made world headlines and embarrassed this country. Have any prosecutions or arrests occured? No. Do the police know the names and details of the protesters? Yes. They are well-known, anti-Israel rabble-raisers. Has a criminal offence occurred? The clear answer is yes.

These protesters have committed, in disrupting a lawful and proper activity, offences under the Public Order Act. They have committed an offence under s. 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 - namely the using of words and behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress and dare I say an offence under s. 4A of same the Act - namely using words and behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm and distress.

These protesters have also committed the offence of aggravated trespass under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 s. 68 by trespassing on land and disrupting a lawful activity, that being a national orchestra invited to a foreign country to make music. They may have purchased tickets to get into the concert but their actions whilst in the venue mean that their right to be there had, as a matter of law, been vitiated.

You may have a license to enter my house but when inside if you start smashing it up or urinating on my sofa you have that license or right taken away and become a trespasser who must leave.

I would add that there is an argument that any offence under s. 4A or s. 5 of the Public Order Act, in these circumstances, is racially aggravated. The protesters are showing clear hostility to members of a national grouping - Israelis - who happen, in this instance, to be members of an orchestra.

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