Liberty GB's Tim Burton thought the law was on his side. That's what he was brought up to believe. And he had not reason to doubt it - until 2014, when he referred to someone as a taqiyya artist, and the police showed up at this home to bring him in for interrogation. That was the beginning of the first of his two court cases. The first time the case was thrown out. The second time he was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison.
He's appealing. He can't let the precedent stand.
If Tim Burton wins, there could be a very healthy domino effect.
Here's how. After Tim’s trial, it was discovered that the Crown Prosecution Service expert witness (Dr Matthew Wilkinson, a Muslim convert who testified against Tim concerning the subject of taqiyya) has a major conflict of interest which he did not declare. He also did not declare this conflict of interest in many other cases over the past three years where he was similarly called upon as an expert witness. Several of these other cases are very high profile, sometimes involving individuals who had been in Guantanamo Bay and who were only convicted because of the evidence given by Dr Wilkinson.
What is the conflict of interest? Dr Wilkinson has founded and runs his own separate organisation, Curriculum for Cohesion, which provides him with a substantial income - £314,246 over the past six years. No problem. Highly relevant, on the other hand: Curriculum for Cohesion has a patron from the highest levels of the Crown Prosecution Service - a Ms Baljit Ubhey OBE, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS in London. In other words, Dr Wilkinson receives substantial moral and material support from the Crown Prosecution Service - and yet was presented as an independent witness to the Court to assist in Tim’s prosecution.
A lot is at stake in the appeal. There's clearing Tim's name - but that is a very minor consideration. At stake is freedom of speech: the verdict against Tim sets a dangerous precedent which can be used against everyone. Finally, if the supposed expert witness is exposed as having a major conflict of interest, this may well lead to the overturning of a number of high-profile verdicts.
Will justice win?
Tim isn't about to give up.
But it's all very expensive. That's how individuals are worn down - and killed. Tommy Robinson was almost killed in prison, and was almost certain to end up with another jail term - until enough money was raised to get him top-rate legal representation.
The costs have drained much of Tim's resources. The first case cost over 10,000 pounds. The second court case cost 12,000 pounds. The appeal is costing as much as the trial.
There was some help with the first case, a little with the second. And so far, almost none with the appeal.
Freedom of speech will only stay alive if we keep fighting for it.