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Hate case opens door to Shoah denial trials

Holocaust denier conviction could mean more private prosecutions for antisemitism

    Alison Chabloz
    Alison Chabloz (Photo: Getty Images)

    The conviction of a musician who performed antisemitic songs could spur private prosecutions over Holocaust denial, a leading lawyer has said. 

    Alison Chabloz, of Charlesworth, Derbyshire, was found guilty last Friday of posting three “grossly offensive” songs to YouTube. In one, she mocked Holocaust survivors to the tune of Hava Nagila.

    Chabloz was convicted under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 after District Judge John Zani found the material to be “grossly offensive”. There is no law specifically against Holocaust denial in the UK.

    Experts have suggested that the conviction will have far-reaching consequences for all forms of Holocaust denial posted to “electronic public communication networks”.

    The ruling could mean an increase in the number of such cases being brought to court.

    Chabloz outside Westminster Magistrates' Court in January
    Chabloz outside Westminster Magistrates' Court in January (Photo: Getty Images)

    Greg Callus, a barrister specialising in media and communications law, suggested that public and private prosecutors may now feel “emboldened".

    He added: "The bigger impact might be that it ‘de-risks’ bringing these prosecutions. It will be relied upon in future cases because it will be an easy way for prosecutors to say we have already had these arguments.”

    Adam Wagner, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said that “any kind of Holocaust denial published online runs the risk of being grossly offensive, and therefore falling under this law”.

    He said the ruling means that “Holocaust denial expressed online in a particularly badgering way, or in a way that’s trying to be humorous, was always illegal under this law because that is grossly offensive.”

    Gideon Falter, chair of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which brought the original case, hoped the verdict would lead to “a total re-appraisal of how the authorities view antisemitic crime. This is about where the line lies between free speech and dangerous antisemitic incitement.”

    Anthony Julius, who successfully defended Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in a libel case brought by historian David Irving, argued that the impact of the ruling “would not go beyond the circumstances of the case”. 

    Mr Julius, deputy chairman of law firm Mishcon de Reya, added: “The idea that some corner has been turned or that some significant advance has been made — that I don’t find very persuasive.

    “It might be that I’m wrong and the CPS will think it’s the kind of case which mandates a tougher and broader approach to Holocaust denial.

    “I think it’s significant that a judge assessing evidence of this kind has come to the conclusion that it is grossly offensive and therefore criminal.

    “I can see that it was a good outcome, and the right outcome, and it matters that the police are ready to prosecute and judges are ready to convict.”

    Because District Judge Zani’s ruling was at a magistrates’ court, it does not set a binding precedent.

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