Brigadier Priyanka Fernando found Guilty and Convicted by British Courts London: On the 6th December 2019 Brigadier Priyanka Fernando has been found guilty and convicted under
Section 4A (1) and (5) of the Public Order Act 1986 which states:
1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he – a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress
Brigadier Fernando had been charged for committing criminal offences under the British law, by threatening with a throat slashing gesture to the Tamil People who demonstrated waving the Tamil national flag in front of the Sri Lankan Embassy in London on 4th February 2018 which marked the 70th Independence Day of Sri Lanka and 70 years of Genocide of Tamils. Prior to him making this gesture, Brigadier Fernando filmed protestors from outside the embassy before returning inside.
Following this incident, The International Centre for Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide (ICPPG) initiated a high-level diplomatic campaign urging UK Government and the FCO to convict the Sri Lankan Military Attaché. Despite the British Police refusing the arrest Brigadier Fernando, on account of his diplomatic immunity, the ICPPG assisted the victims to seek legal advice and open a private prosecution under the guidance of our legal advisor Geeth Kulasegaram.
Given the Brigadier Fernando choose to ignore the summons issued by the Westminster Magistrates Court, the Court had to hear the trial in his absence and found him found guilty. An Arrest Warrant was also issued. However, the Warrant was later withdrawn following intervention of the FCO who contacted the Court upon the pressure from the Sri Lankan government who claimed that Brigadier Fernando was immune from prosecution. As a result, the case was reopened and listed for a retrial. At the first stage of the hearing, the arguments on diplomatic immunity where were heard by Emma Arbuthnot, Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) and it was decided that Brigadier Fernando is not entitled to claim diplomatic immunity as issuing death threat is not part of his official duties. The evidence was heard on 18th October 2019 and 19th November 2019 and the Judgment was reserved.
On 06th December 2019, the Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot handed down the landmark Judgment in an open hearing at the Westminster Magistrate Court. In which she has stated that the cutthroat gestures were made by Brigadier Fernando whilst uniformed, that Brigadier Fernando has intended to cause alarm with these ‘purposeful gestures’ whilst starting at the protesters.
Arbuthnot also states that Brigadier Fernando’s body language appeared ‘to be arrogant and intimidating’ and that Brigadier Fernando had known that his gestures would cause alarm.
Arbuthnot also stated that alarm was caused to the victims in this case. Accordingly, Brigadier Fernando was found guilty and convicted.
In sentencing the Judge made the following remarks:
“I note the authority held by Brigadier Fernando. He was working as a senior diplomat at the time of his behavior. He had brought disrepute and embarrassment to Sri Lanka and the army bearing in mind the seniority of his position.”
“After these events, the Foreign Minister had had to write to the High Commissioner raising the actions of the Brigadier Fernando. I note that he had been recalled to Sri Lanka, I assumed in disgrace”
Brigadier Fernando is also ordered to pay a total of £4,344.00 in total including a fine of £2,000.00, a Surcharge of £170.00, Compensation of £350.00 for the prosecutors and a cost of £1,824.00
Geeth Kulasegaram who is instrumental in this case, says “In spite of this case being adjourned and delayed multiple times by the Defense in a desperate attempt to force us to drop the case, it has finally come to a conclusion and the ICPPG is proud to have brought justice to the victims in this matter. This also helped in restoring trust in the British Legal system”.
The ICPPG wishes to thank the Prosecutors Majuran Sathananthan, Palliya Guruge Vinoth Priyantha Perera and Gokulakrishnan Narayanasamy and the key witnesses Sabeshraj Sathiyamoorthy and Sockalingam Yogalingam, MP of TGTE for their braveness in bringing this case and their tireless effort in continuing the case to this point.
On behalf of the Tamil Community, the ICPPG also takes this opportunity to extend our sincere gratitude to the legal team including counsel, Peter Carter QC leading Shanthi Sivakumaran and instructed solicitors Paul Heron and Helen Mowatt of the Public Interest Law Centre for their excellent and dedicated service in achieving this landmark victory.
The ICPPG acknowledges the invaluable contribution of Geeth Kulasegaram for his support and guidance for making this prosecution possible and successful. We also thank all other
lawyers and other activists who continue to support in various ways in taking this further. (by ICPP)
Judgement can be read here