Pro-Palestine activists guilty over protest outside Keir Starmer's family home

Leonorah Ward, Daniel Formentin and Zosia Lewis outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
Leonorah Ward, Daniel Formentin and Zosia Lewis outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

Three pro-Palestine protesters who staged a demonstration outside Sir Keir Starmer’s family home have been convicted of public order offences.

Leonorah Ward, 21, and Daniel Formentin, 24, both of Burley, Leeds, and Zosia Lewis, 23, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, carried out the stunt on April 9.

A banner was hung outside the north London house that read: "Starmer stop the killing", surrounded by red hand prints, while rows of children's shoes were laid in front of the door.

The three defendants were part of a protest by Youth Demand, which describe itself as a new “resistance campaign fighting for an end to genocide”.

Finding them guilty, District Judge Michael Snow said: “The person who resides here is a senior politician. In the last two years two Members of Parliament have been murdered.”

He said the defendants had been told to leave the premises but ignored the instruction.

At their trial, Sir Keir’s wife, Lady Victoria Starmer, told Westminster magistrates court she had returned to her home by car when her son first spotted the protest.

"I didn't want to stop and be obvious”, she said. "I felt a bit sick, to be perfectly honest. I felt apprehensive and uncomfortable."

Sir Keir Starmer’s wife felt ‘a bit sick’ when she encountered a Youth Demand pro-Palestine protest outside their family home, a court has heard (Youth Demand/PA) (PA Media)
Sir Keir Starmer’s wife felt ‘a bit sick’ when she encountered a Youth Demand pro-Palestine protest outside their family home, a court has heard (Youth Demand/PA) (PA Media)

Lady Starmer said she knew it was "people who were not agreeing with my husband" and she drove around the corner before contacting Sir Keir's office.

Asked by Andrew Morris, defending, if she knew it was a “peaceful protest”, Lady Starmer said: “It would look like a peaceful protest if it hadn’t been outside my home.”

Put to her by Laura O’Brien, representing Ward, that she did not want the added publicity from the demonstration, she said: “That was absolutely not in my mind.”

Formentin, representing himself, told the court: “I firmly believe that Keir Starmer is not accurately representing the country.

“There is an overwhelming sense that young people in this country do want a ceasefire in Palestine.”

Formentin said the protesters took “as many steps as we could to mitigate any threat”, and had no plans to confront anyone.

Put to him by Mr Hallam that they still would have been intimidating and threatening, Formentin said: “No.”

Put to them that they never contemplated how someone living in the house might find the protest distressing, he said: “I think it could be seen as distressing.”

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Mark Upsdale, who arrived at the scene at around 2pm and made the order for the arrests, also gave evidence at the trial.

Asked by prosecutor Jacob Hallam KC if the protesters were making their intentions known to the officers, he said: “They said there was a plan but ‘we are not willing to tell you’, or something to that effect.”

Sgt Upsdale said holding the protest outside somebody’s house, instead of outside the House of Commons or Sir Keir’s offices, was “inappropriate”.

He added: “I did not know if they were going to be there 10 minutes or a day.”

Ward, Lewis, and Formentin, all denied a charge under section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 and an accusation they had breached court bail.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he agreed with Sir Tony Blair on the definition of a woman (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he agreed with Sir Tony Blair on the definition of a woman (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

In a social media video at the time of the incident, Youth Demand called for a two-way arms embargo on Israel, saying that weapons manufactured in the UK were being “used to cause genocide”.