A transgender activist who told the crowd at a London Pride event to “punch a Terf” has been cleared of encouraging violence after telling a court it was a stunt for publicity.
Sarah Baker, 54, was filmed addressing the crowd at the Trans+ Pride rally on July 8, and shouted into the microphone: “If you see a Terf, punch them in the f***ing face.”
But she told City of London magistrates court her words was not intended to incite violence, but rather to grab a front page newspaper headline.
When a complaint about the speech was first made to the Metropolitan Police, a sergeant decided it warranted no further action. But that decision was later overturned amid a public outcry and an intervention by Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Following a trial on Thursday, Baker was found not guilty of encouraging the commission of a criminal offence.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram accepted there was doubt about Baker’s intentions when she made the speech, after she described herself in evidence as an “idiot”.
“I have a doubt”, he said. “I think it’s also possible you are just an idiot - in fact you said it yourself - who was trying to get attention to your cause, that you didn’t intend for people to do it.
“But you said it because you wanted the publicity for your cause.”
The not guilty verdict was greeted with applause from the public gallery, she punched the air, and joked to the court as she was led away: “I’m not really an idiot.”
Baker broke down in tears during part of her evidence as she described violence and threats against the Trans community, and she mounted a verbal attack on the “dark forces” within the current government.
Baker insisted she did not intend for anyone to be hurt as a result of her speech, and told the prosecutor: “I don’t have the power you seem to think I have.”
“I was just being funny”, she said. “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t want no one to be beaten up because of some rubbish that comes out of my mouth.
“I just wanted to get attention for some of the causes I believe in.”
Baker, wearing a light green top, beaded necklace and red beret, described herself as “annoying” and said she is not an eloquent public speaker.
“I wanted to get on the front page of the Daily Mail”, she told the court, of the reason behind her short speech at the rally at Wellington Arch.
Describing herself as a politician and writer, she added: “My job is to get on front page of the paper, to make sure the public know Trans people exist. Not just that we are here but that we need support.”
In her short speech which was caught on camera and later posted online, Baker said: “I was gonna come here and be really fluffy and be really nice and say yeah be really lovely and queer and gay... Nah, if you see a Terf, punch them in the f***ing face.”
The activist livestreamed her subsequent arrest by the Met Police, apologising for her words while calling it “not my finest moment” and imploring her social media followers not to attack anyone.
“I’m really sorry that I said that”, she told officers.
In evidence, Baker fought back tears as she repeatedly insisted: “We live in dark times”.
Naming Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, former Home Secretary Priti Patel, the Conservative cabinet, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Baker said they are fighting a “Trans genocide”.
Terf is an acronym standing for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ and is often used as a derogatory term.
Baker said she does not hate ‘Terfs’ despite their alleged views that “they want the Trans gender community destroyed”, and during her time in court made a series of speeches about the Trans community.
“A lot of us are poor, we live in squalor, a lot of us have absolutely nothing but the clothing we have and benefits that the system deems we are allowed to have to survive”, she said.
“The trans community is one of the most marginalised communities on the planet.”
She said she has faced online death threats, and added: “I can get on the front page of the Daily Mail and ram the transgender agenda down their throats so they choke on it.”
Baker was previously given a life sentence and served 30 years in prison after convictions for kidnap, torture, and attempted murder, and was recalled to prison for breaching her licence conditions in the wake of the protest.
She has been held in a male prison, and told the court she has not showered for two months, is housed on a wing with male sex offenders, and has been the victim of groping and “inappropriate” comments.
It is understood she will not be released after today’s verdict, but will have to wait for a parole hearign which may not be until March next year.
Prosecutor Kabir Sondhi accused Baker of “playing to the gallery” during her stint in the witness box, after repeatedly drawing laughter from her supporters.
“She exhorted her audience to punch people in the face, and she intended to encourage the commission of such offences”, he said, of the speech.
“The words used were clearly capable of encouraging members of the assembled crowd, some of whom can be seen in the footage offering enthusiastic support, to go out and commit the offence of battery against people Ms Baker referred to as Terfs by punching or assaulting them.”
Baker, of Richmond, was cleared of encouraging the commission of a criminal offence. A second allegation of causing harassment, alarm or distress was dropped before the trial.