Yes, we’re back to referring to the trial by Rupert’s real name, as it seems the court listings have done the same. As always, we ask that no one speculate about the outcome of the trial in the comments section. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation!
Cross-examination of defendant, part 2
On the fourth day of Rupert Quaintance’s trial on multiple counts of harassment causing fear of violence, court resumed at 10:15 a.m. with Rupert still in the witness stand, being cross-examined by Martyn Bowyer for the prosecution. Noting that he would not be leaving the topic of the other Hampstead “activists” completely, Mr Bowyer took up where he left off yesterday.
“When did you discover that Angela Power-Disney was, as you put it, ‘dangerous’?” he asked.
“I’ll have to think about that”, Rupert said.
Mr Bowyer asked whether the realisation came before or after Rupert’s visit to Lanzarote. On reflection, Rupert said it was about halfway through the second week there. “I decided she was a meddler”, he said. “She manipulates people, especially when they’re frightened”.
Mr Bowyer confirmed with Rupert that his travels had taken him from the United States to Italy, then Holland, then Lanzarote, and finally the UK, where he had arrived on 9 August 2016.
He pointed out that the Excel document found on Rupert’s hard drive, containing the names of Christ Church Primary School parents, had been created on 30 July 2016, so this must have occurred while Rupert was in Lanzarote. “You accepted yesterday that one source for this document could have been Angela Power-Disney”, he said.
Rupert agreed that this was possible, but said he was not certain.
Mr Bowyer asked whether Sabine McNeill could be characterised as another “activist”, and Rupert agreed that she could. Mr Bowyer suggested that Rupert might not have found Sabine as “dangerous” as Angela, and that he might not have had so many concerns about her”. Again, Rupert agreed.
Mr Bowyer noted that the second list of parents’ names had been found on the HampsteadChristChurch.com site, which had been accessed several times by someone using Rupert’s laptop. The link to that site had been sent by Sabine on 31 March 2016, before Rupert left the United States. He asked whether Rupert had seen this site prior to Sabine sending it to him. “It’s hard to say”, said Rupert. “I can’t remember”.
Mr Bowyer said that on 31 March, Sabine had sent a Skype message with a link to the site, and that Rupert had already stated that he “believed he would have looked at it”. He asked whether Rupert had read about the multiple addresses alleged to belong to the father in the case. Rupert said he might have bookmarked it and saved it for later.
Asked when he had realised that the Hampstead case might not have been all he initially believed, Rupert said, “I came to that determination around my second week in Italy”. He said he had gained more clarity, and the case “took on a different tone to me”.
Mr Bowyer asked Rupert why, if he was no longer interested in Hampstead, he had continued to save documents sent to him about the case: “If someone was sending lies to you, which were of no interest to you, why save them?” he asked.
Rupert replied, “I didn’t want to be accused of being a fraud. I wanted to show that I did my work”.
Turning to the American Freedom Radio broadcast, Mr Bowyer asked Rupert who he’d been referring to in the part of the broadcast where he said, “I don’t want to kill them, I just want to beat them up really bad”. “The people who’d been causing me to fear violence”, Rupert said.
“But had anyone been violent toward you?” Mr Bowyer asked, noting that the reference to beating people up had been immediately followed by Rupert saying, “They’ve been physical, why shouldn’t people get physical with them?” Mr Bowyer contended that this reference was not to Rupert’s trolls online, but to the people of Hampstead, who had supposedly “been physical” in abusing children. “This is a reference to the parents, isn’t it?” he asked. “No one in the list of parents had been physical with you, so why would you say this?”
He further pointed out that Rupert had made that broadcast during his sojourn in Holland, immediately prior to coming to the UK. “Your attitude toward Hampstead had not changed one iota”, he said.
Rupert said he could “understand why you think I was ready for a row—I was just trying to puff myself up”.
Mr Bowyer said that when Rupert had referred in his YouTube video to “kicking down doors and taking blood samples”, this could only refer to the parents, as it would make no sense to “take blood samples” from any other party.
“That was off the cuff”, Rupert said. “I never thought it would be repeated”.
Referring to the Facebook post in which Rupert showed himself at the school, Mr Bowyer asked, “Regarding the comments from your friend Clay, is ‘biscuit’ slang for ‘gun’?” Rupert said that it is, especially in the hiphop world.
“So when Clay posted ‘is that a biscuit in your pocket?’ did you think he meant gun?”
“My initial inclination was to delete that comment”, Rupert said, adding that on second thought he had decided not to censor his friend’s comment.
“Was Clay asking ‘are you armed?'” Mr Bowyer asked, “asking ‘has it been necessary to carry a gun’?”
Rupert said that that was the way he’d understood it.
“Why did you choose to respond ‘knife?’?”
Rupert said that at the end of the Facebook conversation, he had said, “Haha, no no no”.
“At some point even Clay suggested that it might be a good idea to remove the post, didn’t he?” Mr Bowyer asked.
“No, I said that”, Rupert said. “I don’t think Clay would say to take it down”.
Referring to his arrest on 13 September, Rupert said that pre- and post-arrest he felt like two different people. “I was really relieved after the harassment stopped”.
Mr Bowyer asked Rupert to explain what was going through his mind during the week between posting the Facebook post and his arrest: “You still wanted to satisfy the people who’d brought you over here, but was it all over for you?”
Rupert said that the morning before he was arrested, he felt he’d overstayed his welcome. “I was exploring getting a plane ticket,” he said. “My final findings were inconclusive”.
“When were you planning to announce you had no evidence” to support the Hampstead allegations?”
“As soon as I left”.
“Did you actually put anything else up about the Hampstead case after 5 September?”
“I don’t remember”.
Mr Bowyer said, “So no report, no video, no Twitter post saying it was a dead story?”
“I didn’t want to be between the two sides, with one wanting me to investigate”, Rupert said.
“You received donations from people like Angela Power-Disney, Sabine McNeill, and others”, Mr Bowyer said. “So your trip was partly funded by them?”
Rupert agreed that this was true.
“On the other hand, you had the people who vilified you—so you had twice the reason to say ‘I’ve done my best, it’s time to move on”. That would have satisfied both sides, wouldn’t it?” Mr Bowyer asked.
Rupert said he had not considered that.
Turning to the original YouTube video, Mr Bowyer asked how it happened that Rupert had completely ignored the negative feedback he’d received on it.
Rupert said that when he makes videos, he glances at the comments, but doesn’t dwell on them; and so in this case he went back a year later and checked.
Referring to videos which Angela made with Rupert, secretly recording them and then putting them up without his permission, Mr Bowyer asked whether Rupert was aware of these.
“Yes, I asked her to take them down”, he said.
“Did you ask YouTube to take them down?”
Rupert said he had not.
Mr Bowyer asked Rupert, “Are you a reasonable man?”
“Yes, but I’m naïve, and I learn the hard way”, he responded.
Mr Bowyer asked whether Rupert accepted that he had played some part in the distress suffered by the witnesses in this trial.
“No”, Rupert said.
“None at all?”
“I guess, if you look at it in a certain way, I just feel picked on and and pinned down”, Rupert said. “I do feel guilt and remorse for what has befallen me”.
“So no remorse?”
“I’ve been paid back ten-fold”, Rupert said. “I don’t want to accept responsibility, that’s just adding more to my emotional pile”.
Mr Bowyer asked, “Do YouTubers enjoy attention?” Rupert agreed they did.
“So you enjoyed the attention of this extremely divisive situation, including the abuse?”
“At first, yes”, Rupert said. “But once I realised how deep I was in, no”.
Mr Bowyer said, “I submit that you enjoyed it. You came to this country armed with a list of names”.
“That sounds so nefarious”, Rupert said.
Mr Bowyer pointed out that to take another person’s blood against their will would require violence.
“Put a certain way”, Rupert replied.
“I submit that you wanted to beat them up pretty bad right before you left Holland for the UK, and that after that you came to the school and left a message on Facebook that you were armed, which you didn’t remove”, Mr Bowyer said.
At this point, Rupert could be heard sniffling. Mr Bowyer stated that his cross-examination was done.
Referring to the Facebook post, Mr Stevens noted that it ended with a comment from Leo Gallagher, not Rupert’s friend Clay. He asked Rupert whether his response “no, no” was an answer to a question from Mr Gallagher, or from Clay.
Both, Rupert said. “I thought [Leo] was referring to someone who’d been killed by the police.
Mr Stevens stated that the response had been posted on 7 September 2016.
Judge’s questions for defendant
Judge Griffith asked Rupert whether he had had any part in reposting his first Hampstead video in February 2016. Rupert replied that he had not.
Judge Griffith said, “You said you had been told that ‘they’d be waiting for me’ when you arrived in the UK. How did they know when you would be getting off the plane?”
Rupert said he didn’t know.
“How did they know where you were [in London]?” Mr Griffith asked. Rupert said that he had done a video in the back garden of the house where he was staying in Erith, and some people had identified its location from local landmarks visible in the video.
Rupert said, “There were some strange events”, such as people knocking on the door early in the morning or calling the house where he was staying and hanging up. He attributed this behaviour to those who had been harassing him online.
Judge Griffith noted that on Rupert’s Facebook account, someone named “Roger Flutterby” had said, “You look like a creepy knuckle-scraping twat”, and asked whether this was typical of the abuse Rupert had suffered.
“I’d say that was light”, Rupert said.
The judge asked Rupert whether he had any screen shots of death threats he had received.
“Yes, but I don’t have them with me”, Rupert said.
Admissions, part 2
Further to the Admissions which were put on the record yesterday, a set of admissions was given to the jury today. It was agreed between the parties that Rupert had been a target of online abuse; that his address had been published without his permission; that Rupert had complained about this to the police; and that a person who identified himself to police as a Satanist had been asked and had agreed to stop directing angry posts online at Rupert.
Mr Stevens, defence, read out the contents of four character references for the defendant, in which he was described as “kind-hearted and empathetic” with a “wonderful soul”. One reference said he has a strong work ethic, having been employed nearly five years; another said he exhibits compassion and empathy, and the last one characterised him as kind and respectful.
This was the end of the evidence, for both prosecution and defence.
Judge Griffith gave the jury legal directions, emphasizing that the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt, and that it was not up to Rupert to prove his innocence. He reviewed the Harassment Act, noting that the phrase “a course of conduct” must be differentiated from a series of unrelated acts. The course of conduct must be aimed at an individual, so the jury must consider whether this includes the named people in this case, most obviously the parents.
The judge explained that the course of conduct must cause the victims to fear that violence might be used against them. In this case, he said, some of the witnesses had expressed fear for their children. The judge said it would be up to the jury to decide whether the witnesses’ fear had been for themselves, or for their children.
The next step, he said, would be to determine whether Rupert knew, or ought to have known, the effect his course of conduct would have. “It’s not enough for him to say, ‘I didn’t think about it'” he said. Considering whether he ought to have known, the jury must decide whether a reasonable man would have known the effect of his course of conduct.
In this case, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty, or guilty of a lesser charge, to whit, simple harassment. Simple harassment is harassment in which there is no fear of violence, but rather “alarm or distress”.
Given the character references provided, and the fact that Rupert by his own admission has only been in trouble with the law over a minor cannabis charge long ago, Judge Griffith said that he must be treated as a “person of good character”. This factor must be taken into account, and the jury must consider whether it makes it less likely that Rupert committed the offences with which he has been charged.
Prosecution summing up
In his summing up for the prosecution, Mr Bowyer asked, “Are we sure that the defendant’s actions constituted a course of conduct?” He said that a course of conduct is loosely defined in the legislation, so the jury would need to determine the actual number of acts which constitute it: is it two? three? 16? 136? “It’s up to you”, he said.
He also noted that there is no need to define the amount of time between the acts: “It could be once per week, once per month, once per year”. The time frame in question here is between February 2015 and September 2016, and it may be suggested that he posted the video in 2015 but no one saw them until a year later. It’s up to the jury to decide whether this matters, he said.
The prosecution is certain beyond doubt that Rupert’s behaviour constituted a course of conduct, Mr Bowyer said.
Regarding whether the witnesses felt distressed, it’s clear that they did. “They had fears for themselves, for their children”, Mr Bowyer said, referring to one witness’ need to install CCTV around the home, while another mentioned having to travel home a different way each time to avoid being followed and attacked.
Rupert’s behaviour was “designed to cause alarm and distress to the witnesses when he posted the American Freedom Radio broadcast, Mr Bowyer said. “Did he intend to cause alarm and distress? It is enough if the intended victims were parents of the children at the heart of the investigation”, Mr Bowyer said. “It’s important to know that he had their names on an Excel spreadsheet, and that he had access to another list”.
As to whether Rupert “knew or ought to have known”, he said, “it may be that, being possessed of all the facts, an impartial bystander would have known that as a parent at the school [a witness] might have felt very much under suspicion. Would the average man have known that [the witness] would feel harassed under such circumstances?”
Mr Bowyer noted that this jury brings together 12 people of different ages, sexes, and ethnicities who will come together and decide what a reasonable man would think.
“No one is suggesting that the witnesses in this case were not in fear of violence”, he said. As to whether the fear of violence was for themselves or their children, he pointed out, “If you feared your child was in danger, who would you put between your child and their attacker?” Any parent would do that without stopping to think, he said.
As to whether the jury can be sure that the defendant knew or ought to have known that his course of conduct would cause fear, “how could he possibly not have realised?” Mr Bowyer asked.
“It’s likely that you’ll leave this court in a state of shock that images of children aged eight and nine could be spread across the internet”, Mr Bowyer said. “You’ll be in shock that it is so easy for people hiding behind a keyboard to cause such distress to innocent people”. This shock does not necessarily mean that Rupert is guilty, he said, noting that Rupert himself had described the internet as being like the wild west. That was a place where there was very little law, and a great deal of lawlessness.
“We must try to police the internet”, he said. “In Western movies, if you’re a John Wayne figure on the Oregon Trail, fighting the redskins and robbing wagon trains, normally a sheriff comes along” and deals with the situation.
The prosecution doesn’t suggest that Rupert was not subject to abuse: “When you say provocative things, you’ll provoke a response”. Rupert stated that the abuse he suffered had affected every part of his daily life; but how did it affect the four witnesses?
The YouTube video Rupert posted was seen by a number of witnesses. It starts off with Rupert saying he “believes the children”—that he felt doors needed to be kicked down and blood samples taken.
This was posted about a month before Mrs Justice Pauffley’s ruling, but that did not seem to dull his interest.
Everyone in the public gallery here today is free to say they think the jury got it wrong when this case is finished. However, no one is entitled to embark upon a campaign against the jury or against anyone they perceived as supporting the jury’s decision. No one is entitled to threaten to kick down doors or take blood samples, as this would cause alarm and fear.
Rupert claimed that he didn’t think about the video for a full year. He knew that the court had found the allegations against the witnesses to be unfounded, so why did he choose to become so close to other activists in the case? Was he sucked in? Was this just a way to get a few more likes on Facebook or YouTube?
“Did Rupert consider himself a reasonable man?” Mr Bowyer asked. He was funded by many activists; why had he come to the UK armed with a hard drive with a list of names? Did he know they would fear him? Why did he travel to Lanzarote to meet with one of the most vocal campaigners, whom he described as “considerably dangerous”?
In March 2016, Sabine sent him a link with a list of names. If, before he came to the UK, he considered that Hampstead was a dead story, why did he not delete that file?
It was, Mr Bowyer said, because he intended to continue his campaign. Try as he might to dress it up, what Rupert did was harassment. He made that tirade on American Freedom Radio whilst he was in Holland, right before his trip to the UK. He says it was for the trolls, but the lie comes in the assertion after the threat to “beat them up real bad”: “they’re being physical, why shouldn’t people get physical with them?”
On the first day of the school term, in what Rupert called a coincidence, he showed his “defiant face” on Facebook. Anyone looking at that post might assume that he had a knife. But why say knife? Why not just say no, no problem, I wasn’t armed?
Mr Bowyer pointed out that Rupert said he thought he should remove the post…but he didn’t. There is a difference between a closed Facebook conversation where amusing conversations about “biscuits” may take place amongst friends, and public pages, where anyone can see him standing outside the school, using weapons terminology.
This was undoubtedly a course of conduct, Mr Bowyer said. A reasonable person would realise that the witnesses would fear him.
It is not a defence to say, “I am a publicity seeker”, or “I have two different personas, but I don’t think through what I am doing”. Being online is no defence of the “wild west” on the internet.
The reason we have a jury like you is to say, “enough is enough”.
Defence summing up
Summing up the case for the defence, Mr Stevens said, “This is not just about threats. It’s really about Rupert making threats of violence, and you must think very hard about whether that’s what he’s done—dispassionately, objectively”. Is it fair, or is there a danger that what he did was mischaracterised? If it’s viewed through the lens of cynicism, that’s just not fair.
It is not in dispute that a number of individual posts on the internet were, for the witnesses, very difficult, Mr Stevens said. But where does Rupert fit into the picture? The fact that the witnesses felt emotional and broken by the posts they saw should not colour the jury’s consideration of the evidence.
Mr Stevens said it is different to distinguish the feelings resulting from Rupert’s behaviour from the rest of the campaign, carried out by others.
“People were accused of significant child abuse, which was unfounded. Names and details were put online. Rupert did not do that, so don’t allow him to be the fall guy for all of this”, Mr Stevens said. “You may feel that it’s not one man’s campaign, but one man’s commentary, and no more than that. There is a grave danger of his position being unfairly elevated”.
Mr Stevens urged the jury to be dispassionate, objective, and careful. He said the case is not nearly as straightforward as the prosecution says it is.
“The defendant does not need to prove his innocence”, he stressed. “You have to be sure, as you are responsible for determining these things”. Mr Stevens said that the prosecution has failed to meet some evidentiary hurdles. For example, it is important to be satisfied that Rupert’s behaviour was a course of conduct. “The law doesn’t define a course of conduct, it’s a matter of judgement”, he said.
He asked whether the evidential connections between the video, the American Freedom Radio broadcast, and the Facebook post have been overstated. “These must be scrutinised with great care”.
In fact, Mr Stevens said, three of the four witnesses only saw two of the three pieces of evidence.
Looking at the Facebook post, Mr Stevens said that Rupert was said to have been acting out a threat. “But is that fair? There were more than 18 months between the original YouTube video and the Facebook post, yet the prosecution would have you believe that he was making good on a threat. Really? Where are the kicked down doors?”
There is no suggestion that Rupert was at the school on the day the photo was posted. He didn’t talk to anyone. “So he was not making good on a threat”, Mr Stevens said.
Rupert was the victim of online abuse, so he was simply saying to his detractors, “I’m here”, he said. “He was not defiant against the parents—he was not accusing them. What we need to look at is the evidence, which is not as connected as it’s made out to be”.
Regarding the American Freedom Radio broadcast, Mr Stevens said, Rupert said, “I just want to beat them up pretty good”. “But who? Is it really the parents? What characterised that response is its rambling nature; this snippet comes from a show that was over an hour long”.
“There’s a theory about Mr Quaintance”, Mr Stevens said, “that he’s a bad guy. You may think that’s unfair”. He emphasised the importance of not over-inflating Rupert’s words. “In context, is this not a case where provocation and hyperbolic language” are used?
Rupert accepts that he made all the internet posts in evidence, “but is it fair to accept that they were calculated to cause alarm and distress?” Mr Stevens asked. “This could be dangerous, considering the character evidence given”.
“The evidential hurdles are not passed when you look at events dispassionately”, Mr Stevens said. “Don’t let him be the fall guy”.
As far as Section 4 of the Harassment Act, “we must accept that witnesses heard and saw material online that definitely caused fear of violence. But there is a distinction between how that material was received, and the intent of the person who put it up”.
Mr Stevens noted that in some cases, witnesses had not actually seen material on “two distinct occasions”, and he emphasised the need for the jury to “scrutinise with care” the evidence put before them. One witness described being fearful about her child, but said nothing about herself; this is a distinction, Mr Stevens said. “This is an evidential hurdle that the prosecution has failed to pass”.
“Only when you get past the evidential hurdles do you get to what the defendant knew or ought to have known, so is it really fair to say he knew or ought to have known?” Mr Stevens asked. He urged the jury to scrutinise the evidence with extra care, noting that it could be subject to misinterpretation. He suggested that because Rupert was in a heightened emotional state when he made the material, he might have used emotive language.
“You might say something that sounds like that”, he said. “But would you mean it?” He said that the language in this case has been injected with criminality: “it’s a turn of phrase, and it might be unfair to take it literally”.
He urged the jury to approach the language Rupert used with extreme care, especially considering that “this was at the infancy of his personal investigation, and he had no knowledge of any evidence in the case”.
Rupert didn’t have access to the lists of names at the time when he made the video, Mr Stevens said, so how could he have intended the message of the video to be directed toward the witnesses? “Does he know or ought he to know that the witnesses were looking at the video?” he asked. “There has been no evidence of any communication between Rupert and any of the individuals listed on the indictment, so how could he have threatened them?”
Mr Stevens stated that the witnesses were hypervigilant, and said that any fair-minded person would do the same in the circumstances. “But is it fair to conclude that the defendant would know that?” This was not a case where Rupert targeted individuals, he said; the witnesses were not his intended audience.
He asked the jury to go through the evidence with care, as he said this case has been inappropriately characterised. “There is a danger that he has been made a fall guy for something bigger”, Mr Stevens said. “Don’t allow that to mischaracterise what he’s been accused of”. Stating that Rupert’s actions were not calculated to cause alarm and distress, Mr Stevens said that “people were left emotionally damaged. This is shocking and appalling, but it’s not Rupert’s fault”.
Court adjourned for the day, and will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday following the bank holiday; Judge Griffith said he would then replay the video evidence for the jury, and give them their instructions before they make their deliberations. It’s hoped that a verdict will be reached that day. Our reporter will be there, and will bring you all the details.