Anti-Israel activist Carole Swords wins appeal

A veteran anti-Israel campaigner has been cleared of hitting a Jewish man during a boycott protest.

Carole Swords, former chair of Tower Hamlets Respect Party, successfully appealed against a public order offence conviction which followed the pair clashing in a Tesco Metro store.

Harvey Garfield told Southwark Crown Court he had been struck in the face by Ms Swords in London’s Covent Garden in August 2011.

Mr Garfield said he had been volunteering at the store to assist staff and security guards and had worked to “protect” Israeli products from potentially being vandalised by boycott protesters who had earlier demonstrated outside the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava.

The court viewed CCTV footage which showed Ms Swords, of Bow, east London, entering the Tesco store and speaking to Mr Garfield and a security guard.

She walked down an aisle and Mr Garfield walked behind her. He told the court that Ms Swords had turned to shout: “Don’t you f***ing follow me.”

“It happened very quickly,” he said. “I turned, but before I said anything she had struck me. My glasses came off at an angle and fell to the floor.”

Ms Swords’ defence team argued that Mr Garfield had harassed and intimidated her inside Tesco, alleging that he had called her a “Nazi”, a” fishwife” and a “terrorist”. Mr Garfield repeatedly denied the accusation.

Chairing the hearing last Friday, Recorder Mukul Chawla QC said the CCTV footage showed Mr Garfield following Ms Swords in such a way that he was “virtually glued to her”.

“We are of the clear view that the appellant was entitled to demand in emphatic terms that he not follow her,” he said. “It’s clear Ms Swords raised her arm with her hand carrying a number of leaflets. What’s not clear is whether the hand or arm ever came into contact with Mr Garfield’s face. How his glasses came off we cannot say. ” The evidence meant the court “could not reasonably convict” and he allowed the appeal.

Last updated: 12:38pm, December 6 2012