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NUJ calls for harsher penalties for repeated attacks on journalists

27 November 2020

The NUJ today said the UK authorities must consider introducing harsher legal penalties for individuals who repeatedly threaten or attack journalists.

The far-right activist James Goddard appeared at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court yesterday after being prosecuted for threatening behaviour towards The Independent's home affairs and security correspondent Lizzie Dearden.

The judge ordered Goddard to pay £780 in fines and costs and issued an indefinite restraining order preventing him from contacting the journalist. Breaching the order is punishable by imprisonment.

Lizzie was confronted by Goddard during an incident in court in March last year and he shouted verbal abuse at the journalist calling her "vile" and "scum of the earth". At the time of the incident, no court staff or security intervened.

Lizzie has faced years of online abuse from various far-right activists including threats to find out her home address, rape and murder.

The union welcomed the restraining order and fine but said that more must be done to tackle repeat offenders.

Goddard has a long track record of attacks and threats made against the media. In June 2019 he was found guilty of common assault against a press photographer.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Harassment and intimidation of journalists is on the increase, and without harsher penalties we are likely to see more serial abusers as in this case.

"Lizzie’s experience shows how abuse online and in person often goes hand in hand – no journalist should have to carry out their work under such pressure, looking over their shoulder for fear of being abused or attacked.

"Journalists cannot be treated like fair game - we need a renewed focus on effective deterrents to stamp out harassment and abuse and this should include consideration of harsher legal penalties."

David Marley, acting editor of The Independent, said:

"Lizzie is a first-class reporter who has done vital work in exposing the tactics of far-right groups and activists. It is a testament to her bravery that she has continued with that work despite the numerous online threats and abuse she has received as a result.

"The incident with James Goddard is particularly worrying in showing how online abuse can turn into something even more sinister and threatening in person. It is also deeply concerning that this incident happened inside a court building, a place where journalists must be protected and be safe to carry out their work."

Abuse has become the price I pay for doing my job - says The Independent’s Lizzie Dearden

James Goddard given restraining order after calling Independent journalist ‘vile scum of the earth’ in court confrontation - The Independent

Tags: , independent newspapers london, newspapers, far right, journalist safety, health and safety, court, court reporting