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Man charged after BBC journalist chased near Downing Street

It comes after footage shared on social media showed demonstrators shouting abuse in the face of Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt.

Image: Shutterstock/Lois GoBe

A 57-YEAR-OLD MAN has been charged after a journalist was confronted and chased by protesters near Downing Street.

Martin Hockridge is accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person with the intention to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.

It comes after footage shared on social media showed demonstrators shouting abuse in the face of Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt.

Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard, was forced to run through the mob beyond a line of police officers as people shouted “Traitor” and other slurs at him near Downing Street on Monday.

The Metropolitan Police said they have begun reviewing the footage and identified a number of possible offences and launched an investigation.

Crowds had gathered in Westminster to protest against the Government’s extension of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks.

The treatment of Watt was widely condemned as “disgraceful” and “appalling”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Disgraceful to see the hounding of Nick Watt doing his job. The media must be able to report the facts without fear or favour – they are the lifeblood of our democracy.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel Patel tweeted: “The video of @BBCNewsnight’s Nick Watt being abused by a mob is appalling and distressing.

“This behaviour is never acceptable.”

She added: “The safety of journalists is fundamental to our democracy.”

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The BBC said in a statement after the footage was shared: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable.

“All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.”

The Met initially said an investigation would be launched into a “number of offences” but that officers “were not in the immediate vicinity of the incident”.

However, following the emergence of another longer video showing police present at the scene, the force said it would also be “reviewing our actions with a view to improving the policing of events”.

Hockridge, of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, is charged under Section 4A of the Public Order Act and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday  29 June.

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