Estate agent, 23, who accosted Chris Whitty charged with assault
Essex estate agent, 23, who accosted Chris Whitty as he walked through London park is charged with common assault
An Essex estate agent who accosted Chris Whitty as he walked through a London park has been charged with common assault.
Lewis Hughes, 23, and his friend Jonathan Chew, 24, filmed themselves grabbing the Government’s top medical adviser as he walked through St James’ Park on Saturday.
Hughes will now appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 30.
The viral video received widespread condemnation, including from Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who labelled the pair ‘thugs’.
But Hughes, who has been fired from his job at Caplen Estates Agents following the backlash, has since tried to explain his actions, saying they were ‘not malicious’.
Hughes, the son of a car sales businessman, from Romford, Essex, told The Sun: ‘If I made him feel uncomfortable, which it does look like I did, then I am sorry to him for that.
‘To be honest I just wanted a selfie with Chris Whitty to show my mum. There was no malicious intent, I didn’t want to upset him.’
Hughes also revealed how he and his friend Chew had been drinking during an anti-vax march in London prior to the incident.
Lewis Hughes, 23, and his friend Jonathan Chew, 24, filmed themselves grabbing the Government’s top medical adviser as he walked through St James’ Park on Saturday
Chief Medical Officer for England Prof Chris Whitty is seen walking past the Department of Health and Social Care in London
Lewis Hughes, 24, and his friend Jonathan Chew, also 24, filmed themselves grabbing the Government’s top scientific adviser as he was walked through St James’ Park on Saturday
Hughes, 24, (left, and right in the video) was fired from Caplen Estates Agents after the clip of him and friend Jonathan Chew, also 24, with the Chief Medical Officer found its way to his boss
Chew (left, and right in the video with Whitty) said he has ADHD and autism and said their interaction with Prof Whitty seemed like a good idea at the time. He also claimed the pair only wanted a selfie and meant no harm
A Metropolitan Police statement said: ‘Detectives investigating an incident that took place in St James’s Park on Sunday, 27 June have charged a man.
‘At approximately 19:20hrs on Sunday, 27 June officers in St James’s Park became aware of a man being accosted by a group of men.
‘They spoke to the victim and checked his welfare. He had not suffered any injuries.
‘Officers subsequently reviewed video footage which emerged after the incident and the matter was referred to the Public Order Crime Team. Enquiries continue.’
Chew, who said he has ADHD and autism, also attempted to explain his actions, saying: ‘Sometimes things seem a good idea and really they’re not.’
He added: ‘We didn’t cause any harm to him. We just wanted a selfie.’
The condemnation quickly started after the video, showing the two men accosting Professor Whitty in St James’ Park, emerged online.
It is not clear where the video was first posted, but one of the earliest appearances was on the social media pages of anti-vax group ‘We Are One’.
Hughes (pictured), from Romford, Essex, said he ‘absolutely apologises’ for causing upset, but said if Prof Whitty had told him to get off, he would have
Hughes (pictured) said he had been drinking prior to accosting Prof Whitty
Hughes has been sacked from his job working for the estate agency firm Caplen Estates in Essex (pictured: The firm’s office in Buckhurst Hil)
The group later posted a statement in saying it did ‘not condone bullying’, before accusing Professor Whitty and the Government of ‘lies and propaganda’.
What personal protection do Cabinet ministers get and could Chris Whitty have the same?
Cabinet ministers are given more personal protection than their colleagues due to the increased profile of their role.
They are privy to officers from the Metropolitan Police’s elite Protection Command while in office.
The specialist unit has two branches – Royalty and Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection.
These officers are licensed to carry firearms with them at work, unlike most police in Britain.
The Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection branch take care of high-profile ministers and also control access to Downing Street.
PC Keith Palmer was in the unit when he died outside the Palace of Westminster in 2017.
An unnamed personal protection officer assigned to the then Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon shot and killed the attacker.
Wayne Couzens, who was arrested over the death of Sarah Everard, was also in the branch.
The role is perhaps best known to the public by the thriller series Bodyguard, which came out in 2018.
Officers are in a pool and they may not protect the same person on different days after the Royalty and Diplomatic protection was merged a few years ago.
It is not clear if an officer from here would be appropriate for Prof Whitty, but Priti Patel vowed to ‘look at what we can do to support him’ when asked about his protection.
Asked if she thinks he needs security measures, she said: ‘I can’t speak about that but it’s important that we make sure that Chris is given the right kind of support.’
In a chilling message, the group added that Professor Whitty was ‘lucky’ that it was ‘just two lads having a laugh’ before finishing with ‘F*** Whitty and his pals’.
Boris Johnson slammed the ‘despicable harassment’ and said public servants ‘should not have to face this kind of intimidation’.
Priti Patel said she was ‘horrified’ by the ‘appalling’ attack – the third time the Chief Medical Officer has been accosted in just four months.
The Home Secretary said it was important Prof Whitty got the support he needed but refused to reveal if he will now get greater levels of protection.
Yet a firm of private security experts told MailOnline he should have police protection, ‘certainly with the recent history of incidents towards him’.
They added someone that high profile is ‘at risk of being targeted by many groups, such as the anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, or those that have lost their jobs, friends, or family members due to Covid-19’.
Sunday’s incident is the second time Prof Whitty has been attacked this month after a man harassed him in the street in Oxford and accused him of lying about coronavirus.
He was also rounded on by a young thug in February, who uploaded his video to TikTok and was later scolded by his mother.
On Saturday, Prof Whitty was branded a ‘traitor’ and a ‘murderer’ by lockdown sceptics who gathered outside his home a day before he was put in the headlock.
A huge crowd marched on the Chief Medical Officer’s flat in central London.
They stood on the road – where flats sell for up to £12.5million – and some drank beer as they branded Prof Whitty a ‘murderer’ and ‘traitor’ for his work during the pandemic.
They hurled the insults at the top epidemiologist’s home through megaphones and clasping their hands around their mouths. It is not clear if Prof Whitty was at home.
Joel Smalley, who said he attended the ‘freedom rally’, tweeted: ‘Most of those appalled by the activity throw insults at those conducting it like they are all ignorant and brainwashed by ”conspiracy theories”.’
He added: ‘Kind of ironic given that the marchers have probably done more research! I know, I was there.’
While the demonstrators shouted their bile at Prof Whitty’s home, thousands of others were taking part in an anti-lockdown rally outside Downing Street.
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