CPS to probe judge who acquitted Gaza activists

By Jessica Elgot, July 15, 2010

The Crown Prosecution Service may investigate the conduct of a Brighton judge who inferred an anti-Israel activist should win a medal for bravery.

The Board of Deputies have asked the Office of Judicial Complaints to review the judge's summing up and the CPS have also requested a transcript.

Last month a jury acquitted seven activists of causing £200,000 worth of damage to an arms factory in January 2009. The defendants claimed they were trying to prevent the factory, owned by EDO MBM, from making arms for Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Before the acquittal, Judge George Bathurst-Norman told the jury: "You may think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered at that time." He also said of group leader Christopher Osmond: "The jury may feel his efforts investigating the company merit the George Cross."

All seven activists, who were members of a group called Smash EDO, were acquitted of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

But the Board president, Vivian Wineman, said: "The press reports of Judge George Bathurst-Norman's comments… give rise to profound concerns about the appropriateness of his directions to the jury.

"We are asking the OJC to examine the judge's comments and the context in which they were made, to determine if he exceeded his judicial powers."

Last updated: 12:50pm, July 15 2010