A FATHERS’ rights campaigner who staged a megaphone protest on a route used by his former partner in Sawbridgeworth has today (Friday) been convicted of breaching a restraining order.
Police were called to outside Blanco Browns, the tanning salon in Cambridge Road, when Robert Smith, 32, was recorded on a police officer’s body camera saying: “Family courts are child abusers. I have not seen my kids for three-and-a-half years.”
Five weeks earlier, Smith, from Waltham Cross, had demonstrated outside the Putney home of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
In December, he and other New Fathers 4 Justice campaigners protested outside Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in Oxfordshire.
The HGV driver’s former partner told a jury at St Albans Crown Court that she was driving from her home in Crofters when she noticed balloons and banners and then saw Smith.
She said she was waiting to cross into Station Road when he saw her. She called the police and on her return journey saw officers talking to her former partner.
Smith then picked up the megaphone again and said something, allegedly directing the words “child abuser” at her.
She went on: “I panicked. I was frightened. I just wanted to get home.”
The court was told that a restraining order, banning Mr Smith from going within 100 metres of his former partner or having any contact with her, was made on June 2, 2011, after he was acquitted of breaching a county court non-molestation order.
The couple’s five-year relationship ended in 2008 and she had moved to Sawbridgeworth the following year.
Prosecutor Roxanne Aisthorpe told the jury of eight men and four women that Smith was guilty of a clear case of breaching the order.
Smith, representing himself, said his defence was that he had a “reasonable excuse” as he had a right to protest peacefully and also had a right to freedom of expression.
He said he had not confronted his ex-partner and had not planned to see her.
Smith denied two charges of breaching a restraining order on July 1 last year but was convicted.
Judge Andrew Bright QC fined him a total of £250, with a £25 victim surcharge and ordered him to pay £1,200 costs at the rate of £20 a week.
The judge said: “I am satisfied he was pushing the terms of the order to its limits and was testing the order. By the jury’s verdict, he was on the wrong side of the line.”
He extended the restraining order to run for another three years. Mr Smith must not contact his former partner, except through solicitors, and not go to her address or within 100 yards of her.
He must also not be out in Sawbridgeworth between 8.30am and 9.30am or between 2.30 pm and 3.30pm.
The judge also ordered that he must not display the names or photographs of his children on social media.