Covid denier harassed NHS staff as she filmed inside Gloucestershire Royal hospital
A woman who abused NHS workers and filmed inside a hospital to suggest it was 'empty' has been made to pay £929.
Debbie Hicks filmed inside Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in a bid to show the coronavirus pandemic was a hoax, at a time when the county was under tier 3 restrictions.
The 47-year-old entered the hospital for the first time on 27 December 2020, and filmed inside.
She then returned the following day where she came across two health workers on a stairwell of the hospital tower block who recognised her voice from a previous video she had recorded inside the hospital and livestreamed on Facebook.
The court heard that in a confrontation lasting less than a minute, Hicks was “aggressive and dismissive” to the two therapists, Kate Williams and Sophie Brown, leaving them “distressed and intimidated”.
Hicks has now been convicted of a public order offence for using threatening words or behaviour likely to cause harassment.
'Look at the truth.'
During her visit, Hicks entered the hospital and said on the video: “It is absolutely dead, it’s a ghost town, I’ve never seen it so quiet.
“Where are all the people dying from the second wave?
“This is the proof we’ve needed in Gloucestershire, we’ve been locked down into Tier 3 for this?
“An empty hospital, this is a disgrace.
"All our people in our country desperately waiting for treatment…
“This is making me so angry walking around here.
“Look at the truth.”
On her second visit, Hicks returned to the hospital where Miss Williams and Miss Brown challenged her after seeing her acting suspiciously on a stairwell.
She was arrested by police the following day at her home in Stratford Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire.
"Threatened by Hicks' words and behaviour"
During her trial at Gloucestershire Magistrates’ Court, a lawyer representing Hicks argued she was acting as a “guerrilla journalist” during the filming to report what was happening inside the hospital.
She also denied using threatening and abusive words towards the women.
Hicks told the court she was attempting to demonstrate to the public that Government restrictions were disproportionate, and the hospital was not overflowing with patients.
Hicks' lawyers suggested her conduct was “reasonable” in the circumstances and that she had a right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
They also suggested the prosecution was not “proportionate” in interfering with Hicks’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
But District Judge Nicholas Wattam said he felt Miss Williams and Miss Brown had given evidence "without exaggeration".
“I have no doubt Miss Williams and Miss Brown felt threatened by Mrs Hicks’ words and behaviour on the stairwell that afternoon,” he said.
“She was aggressive and dismissive of them and tried to record a non-consenting interview of them while holding a mobile phone.
“They were distressed by her and both told me that they were intimidated by her and that they were frightened they would be streamed online.
“Both were aware of the footage the previous day and found her running commentary distressing.
“Taken together Mrs Hicks’ behaviour did amount to harassment and the words used were threatening and abusive.”
The judge said the prosecution had proven its case and said it overrode Hicks right to freedom of expression as the NHS workers "do not deserved to be molested by Mrs Hicks when at work and should be protected by law".
He added: "The defence has not satisfied me that her conduct was reasonable, therefore I must find you guilty.”
In mitigation, Merry Van Woodenburg, said: “She does not have a job and lost any opportunity of employment.
“She is a registered psychologist and teacher.
“Her defence was funded by others who have similar public concerns.”
Hicks added: “I am out of work and I am not claiming benefits.
“Just my husband’s salary and we are in debt and struggling.”
The judge fined Hicks £120 and ordered her to pay £775 prosecution costs and victim surcharge of £34.
Miss Van Woodenburg said Hicks planned to appeal direct on a point of law to the High Court by way of a “state the case”.