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Blogger cleared of abusing Sandwell Council boss Jan Britton

A protestor rallying against plans to build a designer village in the Black Country has been acquitted of hurling abuse at a council boss.

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Julian Saunders blogs as the Sandwell Skidder

Julian Saunders used a megaphone to publicly insult Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton as he led a 'peaceful protest' in Oldbury, prosecutors alleged.

But the 60-year-old was cleared of any wrongdoing after a video emerged revealing the jibe was said to a friend and was not a verbal attack towards Mr Britton.

Sitting at Dudley Magistrates' Court, District Judge David Webster said Mr Saunders did not make a 'deliberate attempt to insult' and refused to impose a restraining order requested by the prosecution.

Jan Britton

He added: "Whatever anyone thinks about the conduct of individual public servants, they remain public servants and they are entitled to the protection of the law.

"It is not part of their job description to be subject to unlawful abuse, but that hasn't arisen in this case."


Mr Saunders denied using threatening or abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress ahead of his trial.

He admitted making the derogatory comment to a fellow protestor but claimed he did not utter the words through his megaphone as alleged.

The blogger was at the council's Oldbury base to campaign against the proposed Lion Farm development as an annual mayor-making ceremony took place.

The controversial multi-million pound plans would see about 90 designer shops built on Oldbury's Lion Farm Playing Fields.

Giving evidence on Monday, Mr Britton said he was talking with colleagues after the ceremony when Mr Saunders starting calling out to him using the megaphone.


Saunders was alleging corruption within the council and demanding comments at about 7pm on May 22 last year, the witness said.

The 51-year-old added: "He was using the megaphone to harangue people as they left the building.

"As most people left, he turned his attention to harangue myself, so I was very aware of his presence.

"I was very unhappy about [the comment]. I felt harassed by it, I was hurt by it."

But Mr Saunders said he was only using the megaphone to demand answers about the development plans from Labour MP for Warley John Spellar and Mr Britton.

He made the derogatory comment in his 'normal voice' to a man standing next to him as he held the megaphone in his hand, Mr Saunders said.

Mr Saunders then revealed he had captured the moment on his mobile, which both defence and prosecution counsel were unaware of.

The defendant, of Chelworth Road, Birmingham, added: "It is not my style to shout out abuse. I'm not disputing I said what I said, it's who I said it to."

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