PEACE AND JUSTICE ACTIVIST, tutor and author Symon Hill has been formally charged under the Public Order Act over comments he made during a proclamation ceremony for the new king in Oxford three months ago.
Thames Valley police said on Friday that Hill had been charged with using threatening or abusive words, or disorderly behaviour. Such charges are approved by the Crown Prosecution Service, who then prosecute the case in court in England.
The ceremony in September 2022 was led by the high sheriff of Oxfordshire, who read a proclamation of accession of Charles to a crowd of people in the city centre. This was one of a number of ceremonies in cities and towns across the UK.
Symon Hill was coming out of church at the time of the ceremony in Oxford, and found himself unable to cross the road. He stood respectfully as the crowd marked the passing of the queen, but when the proclamation of a new king was made he was reported to have responded by asking loudly, “Who elected him?” and other interrogations
When he was snatched by the police and taken away, several royalist supporters were seen to ask arresting officers for Hill to be allowed his free speech, and others noted that he had not been aggressive or rude.
In spite of this, the police, with the endorsement of the CPS, have decided to prosecute, many weeks after the incident, which took place during the event at Carfax Tower, Oxford, on 11 September.
Symon Hill, who was acting in a personal capacity according to his own conscience, is now a campaigns manager for the Peace Pledge Union and a history tutor for the WEA, as well as being a writer and author. He was formerly an associate director of Ekklesia.
On Twitter, Hill commented on 22 December: “Yesterday, I was charged with breach of the Public Order Act for my objection in Oxford in September to the proclamation of Charles Windsor as king (the police waited three months before charging me). I will be in court on 31st January [20230 to plead Not Guilty.”
Ekklesia director Simon Barrow said: “We fully support our friend and former colleague Symon Hill in the face of this unnecessary and inappropriate charge. We hope the court will dismiss it, so that attention might then focus on who in the police and the CPS is wasting public money on such a frivolous prosecution.
He continued: “The core issue here is clearly freedom of expression, which is increasingly under threat at present from UK government legislation, and from the actions of the police in cases like this and others.
“What is also important and revealing about this particular case is the way in which the institution of the monarchy depends upon the suppression of free speech, and is buttressed by the oppressive use of the legal system. The anti-democratic nature of the Crown is, of course, the point that Symon Hill was trying to raise, firmly but politely, when – ironically – he was obstructed by the ceremony.”