A brief look: Prison for Murdoch’s pie-attacker

By Theresa Mallinson 4 August 2011

Jonathan May-Bowles, aka Jonnie Marbles, viewed throwing a pie at Rupert Murdoch as a recognised form of protest. But the court didn't see it that way, which means he'll be spending the next three weeks in jail. By THERESA MALLINSON.

So, what penalties does throwing a foam pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face get you? Jonathan May-Bowles, who did just at that during last month’s parliamentary hearing into the phone-hacking scandal, is looking at a six-week jail sentence (three weeks to be served), as well as having to pay £250 in costs. Oh, and he’ll have to stump up a £15 “victim surcharge” too. This money will not go to Murdoch, but to the Victims Fund which, as its name suggests, offers support to victims of violence. Murdoch still gains though: £15 is smaller than small change to him, but the association of his name with the word “victim” is priceless.

May-Bowles’ sentencing took place at the City of Westminster magistrate’s court in London on Tuesday. He had appeared before the same court on Friday, pleading guilty to charges of assault and causing harassment, alarm or distress. His defence pointed out: “Slapstick and throwing pies dates back to the 1900s as a recognised form of protest.” But this cut no ice with district Judge Daphne Wickham, who convicted May-Bowles on both charges.

Watch: Murdoch attacked at hacking hearing

In handing down sentence, Wickham said: “This is a parliamentary process, which as you know conducts itself with dignity and in a civilised fashion.” (Seemingly Wickham has never watched the live broadcast of the House of Commons question-time sessions, which don’t always remain strictly dignified.)

May-Bowles also works as a comedian under the name Jonnie Marbles. Leaving court on Friday he was chirpy enough to joke: “I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life” – ripping off Murdoch, who had uttered the same line during his parliamentary appearance.

But on Tuesday, May-Bowles wouldn’t have been so cocky, as Wickham denied him bail, despite his intention to appeal the sentence. The six-week jail term has been criticised for its harshness, especially considering that Murdoch himself did not support the charges. Ipetitions has launched a “free Jonnie Marbles petition”, which had already garnered a couple of hundred signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

Closer to home, Darryl Peense, who has been convicted of assault for spilling his drink on President Jacob Zuma, awaits his sentencing on 7 September. Peense, who maintains the incident was entirely accidental, will be hoping to avoid jail time himself. DM

Read mores:

  • Protester jailed for throwing foam pie at Rupert Murdoch, in the Guardian;
  • Jonnie Marbles jailed for throwing pie at Rupert Murdoch, in the Telegraph;

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