Brutus v Cozens [1972] UKHL 6

ON 19 JULY 1972, the House of Lords delivered Brutus v Cozens UKHL 6 (19 July 1972).

The accused interrupted a game of tennis during the 1971 Wimbledon tournament. He entered the court, blew a whistle and distributed leaflets protesting against South African apartheid. Several others carrying banners and placards also entered the court. The accused was forcibly removed. The incident lasted two or three minutes.

The accused was charged with using insulting behaviour where a breach of the peace was likely to occur. At first instance, the Magistrate dismissed the charge, finding that the behaviour was  not insulting. On appeal, the Divisional Court held that the conduct could be insulting as a matter of law and remitted the matter back to the Magistrate. The accused then appealed to the House of Lords.

The House of Lords allowed the appeal, holding that the determination of what is insulting is a question of fact and that the Magistrate was not required to find that the accused’s conduct was insulting as a question of law. Accordingly, the Divisional Court’s decision was set aside in favour of the Magistrate’s decision dismissing the charge.

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