January 19, 2021
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Bristol judge reads Covid doctor’s heartbreaking words to lockdown protester

bristolpost– A Bristol judge read a junior doctor’s harrowing account of treating coronavirus patients to a man who protested lockdown.

Robin Campbell, who claims he used to work for GCHQ, was among 400 members of the Stand Up Bristol group who marched through the city centre on November 14 to oppose the second lockdown.

The self-represented 53-year-old, of Hill House Road in Downend, admitted being in a gathering of more than two people and received a £1,500 fine today (January 7) at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.

District Judge Lynne Matthews told him: “Let me just read you something which I read in my lunch break. It was in The Times.”

For around five minutes, the judge read the words of an anonymous doctor who has documented their nightmarish experience of working on a high dependency unit during the pandemic.

“The patients don’t ask many questions, mostly because they need to spend all of their energy breathing,” the judge read from the piece.

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“I try to work out if one of my patients isn’t answering my questions because she is delirious, because she doesn’t speak English, or because she is depressed.

“I work out that it is probably the latter; her notes say that her husband died just before new year, from Covid.”

She continued: “I almost never have good news to deliver. Hearing people cry on the other end of the phone, knowing that I am them bringing news of the worst day of their lives, is heartbreaking.”

The article went on: “The most distressing part of their struggle is the air hunger. You can spot these patients easily, as they grasp the masks to their faces with both hands and gasp visibly for air.”

Campbell, wearing a suit, had started rifling through his notes as District Judge Matthews spoke, leading her to pause and say: “When I’ve got your attention…”

When she finished reading, she asked Campbell if she was aware of this situation.

He replied: “Thanks for reminding me of that. I accept there are definitely some people suffering today during Covid.”

Campbell, who initially said he would be pleading not guilty, started to tell the judge about “the science” of coronavirus.

But she interjected: “I know about the science. What is it about your predicament on November 14 that meant it was proportionate for you to put others at risk?”

The lockdown sceptic then launched into a series of false statements downplaying the severity of the pandemic.

When Judge Matthews repeated her question to him, he said he had disagreed with “the proportionality of a lockdown”.

She said: “This won’t be a trial about whether lockdown is right or wrong. The regulations are in place and I have to punish people who breach them.”

Campbell responded: “I do hear you ma’am, but when there is a lockdown enforced and freedom of speech curtailed, I don’t know where else I am supposed to voice that opinion.”

Judge Matthews asked why he did not voice his opinion in the media.

Campbell then pointed to this reporter in the press gallery and said: “People like Bristol Live try to gaslight us.”

The judge replied: “That’s nonsense. There are plenty of people in the newspapers with views like yours. I saw one example in The Times earlier.”

At this point, Campbell advanced a false conspiracy theory about vaccines, to which Judge Matthews said: “Are you an anti-vaxxer?”

Campbell said: “No, I’m just anti-stupid.”

The judge was about to adjourn the case to a trial. She asked Campbell: “You don’t think you did anything wrong that day?”

He said: “I’m guilty of breaching the regulations, yes.”

With a guilty plea entered, the trial was cancelled and a sentencing hearing was held.

Prosecutor Natalie Carman said: “There was intelligence the defendant was carrying a megaphone and had no face mask [during the demonstration].

“Police pulled over as they saw he had a megaphone. The suggestion was that he had organised the gathering.”

Asked if there was anything else he would like to say, Campbell told the court: “I worked for GCHQ for three years. I know a lot about what is necessary and proportional.”

Matthews asked him: “Do you believe in a democracy? And democratically elected lawmakers? And you know the regulations were brought in following due process?”

Campbell answered yes to all, but said: “I would like to offer additional thoughts.”

When he claimed “flu admissions are almost down to zero”, Judge Matthews told him: “Yes, because everyone is taking the flu vaccine, everyone is covering their mouth – so the flu has gone right down hasn’t it?”

She added: “Have you listened to the medics saying hospitals are full in London? That they are being sent to Bristol as they don’t have beds for them there?”

Campbell replied: “My good friend, an NHS worker, says the Bristol wards were empty for a long, long time.”

Judge Matthews shook her head.

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