A Palestine protester was literally caught red handed after spray painting slogans on a Brighton building, a court heard today.
Bliss Winters, who is being prosecuted under their legal name Charlie Turner, was spotted by police spraying the red paint on Sovereign House in Church Street in the early hours of December 17 last year.
They fled on foot, but was caught after a short chase and arrested. He refused to tell police his real name, instead saying he was comfortable being addressed as “Torch”.
Prosecuting, Dominic Dudkowski said Winters, 19, was a member of Palestine Action, who had been targeting sites connected to the Israeli-owned arms manufacturer Elbit.
But, he said, there was no evidence Elbit had any connection to Sovereign House.
The damage cost more than £1,500 to repair.
The court was read a statement from Geraint Thomas, the head of legal at property management firm Jones Lang Lascelle (JLL).
He said JLL had become a target of Palestine Action because a London building they manage is used by Elbit Systems.
However, he said JLL is not the landlord, and has no power to evict the company.
He said JLL had been managing Sovereign House on behalf of its owner when it was targeted.
Winters first appeared at Brighton Magistrates Court on December 18, where they pleaded not guilty.
Today, black jeans, a white jumper and a hot pink leather jacket, he took the stand and told District Judge Amanda Kelly he honestly believed Sovereign House was directly linked to Israeli war crimes in Palestine.
They said: “You can draw a direct line from Sovereign House to Palestine via JLL.
“I think the link is quite clear. This might be because of the way my brain works because of autism but that link is very visual in my mind.
“By taking an action such as this there would be a chilling effect to JLL.
“They would have to question themselves in their complicity in this bloodshed and they would look again at their building and ask themselves is it worth being in bed with someone who promotes bloodshed.”
They said they had sprayed the paint in the early hours because they had not wanted to cause distress to people working there or passers-by.
When Mr Dudkowski asked them why they had been clad entirely in black, including a mask, they accused him of profiling – i.e. making judgements about someone based on their appearance.
And they said they had not wanted to give their real name to police because they wanted to keep their personal data private and it being on police records would be detrimental to them.
Winters, a sociology student at Brighton University, told the court they had found being arrested very distressing, and had cried so much during their 36 hours in the police cells their nose had started bleeding.
Adjourning the case until 29 March, Ms Kelly said: “There’s no doubt that on the night in questino you daubed the doors and windows of Sovereign House with red paint.
“But my decision is far from straightforward. This trial involved a difficult balancing exercise between how far your right to protest about a cause that you passionately believe in interplays with the rights and freedoms of others and the need to keep law and order in a democratic society.
“You are a young man with autistic spectrum disorder and it’s not an easy decision and it’s not one that I’m going to give you today.”
Winters was released on bail until the next hearing, with the condition they are not allowed to go less than a pavement width near Sovereign House.