A man has been found guilty of threatening a Labour MP after he held a makeshift gallows with a noose outside parliament and said: “This is what we do to traitors.”
Lance O’Connor, 57, called out the name of the Hove MP, Peter Kyle, as he walked across Parliament Square in central London on 20 October last year, Westminster magistrates court heard on Tuesday.
The trial was told that O’Connor, 57, then pointed to a set of 6ft gallows before shouting out the threat.
Kyle, 51, a former charity sector executive, was elected to parliament in 2015 and serves as the shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland.
O’Connor, of Plaistow, east London, appeared in court holding a wooden walking stick in the shape of a gallows with a small noose attached.
He said he built the gallows as a protest against “draconian” lockdown measures and to remind the government that “treason is still punishable by the gallows”, though he denied targeting or shouting anything at Kyle.
The district judge Neeta Minhas found O’Connor guilty of causing Kyle harassment, alarm or distress, after a short trial.
She handed O’Connor a conditional discharge for 12 months, meaning he must not commit another offence within that period, and ordered him to pay £660, including £200 to Kyle.
O’Connor said he would appeal against the decision and was heard muttering “complete travesty” as he left court.
During the trial, Kyle told the court he had felt “chilled” and “threatened” by the incident, which came less than a week after the murder of the Conservative MP Sir David Amess.
He said he had been returning to parliament from a lunch meeting when he heard his name being called “in an angry shout”.
“I looked briefly at what I was seeing and then away but then as I proceeded I turned back to have another look because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said. “I saw a man standing there holding gallows with a noose in Parliament Square.
“The word ‘traitor’ was being used and then, when I looked across the road again, a man said: ‘This is what we do with traitors.’”
Kyle said he then saw the man pointing up at the noose. He also took a photo of the scene, which he later posted to Twitter and which was shown to the court.
He said he ran back to his office after the incident because he considered the man’s action as a “direct threat to myself and a direct threat to other members of parliament”.
He added that after Amess’s death there had been an “atmosphere around Westminster that was chilling, so to see that was horrifying.”
The court heard that another man, Stephen Tiller, who had been on his way to another protest, approached the defendant when he saw the gallows and asked: “What is that for?”
“He said: ‘All those fuckers in there,’ and pointed towards parliament,” Tiller told the court.
Questioned by Martin Smith, defending, Kyle said he had not spoken to the defendant during the encounter because MPs were told by security services not to engage with threatening protesters.
Asked whether he knew for certain that it was the defendant who shouted the threat, Kyle said: “To the best of my knowledge. I’m pretty sure it was the person who was pointing to the gallows whose mouth was moving.”
O’Connor told the court he had not known Kyle was an MP, and claimed Kyle approached him and asked: “Do you think that is appropriate?”
“I pointed across the road at the Palace of Westminster and said: ‘What I think is inappropriate is the draconian measures the people in parliament have made,’” O’Connor said.