Father of three, 64, is fined for daubing ‘Dickens racist’ in Margate museum

A former Labor councilor has been convicted of criminal damage after he defaced graffiti and alleged that Charles Dickens was racist on council property in a city.

Ian Driver held a lengthy self-defense in court in Margate, Kent, in which he insisted he was driven to his actions following investigations into ‘institutionalized racist’ local authorities.

The father of three from Broadstairs shared how he believed something needed to be done to protect the lives of local black, Asian and ethnic minorities.

But Driver, 64, who also represented the Green Party, was yesterday fined £1,400 plus a two-year parole from Margate Magistrates’ Court.

Ian Driver daubed graffiti on Dickens House, an author’s museum in Broadstairs, Kent

Father of three drivers told court how he felt something should be done to prevent damage to property and even the lives of local BAME people in the area

Father of three drivers told court how he felt something should be done to prevent damage to property and even the lives of local BAME people in the area

The driver's slogans included 'Dickens Racists', 'Racism by the Sea' and 'Racist Folk Week'.  He left graffiti on the offices of St Peter's City Council, which hosts Broadstairs Folk Week

The driver’s slogans included ‘Dickens Racists’, ‘Racism by the Sea’ and ‘Racist Folk Week’. He left graffiti on the offices of St Peter’s City Council, which hosts Broadstairs Folk Week

Driver was taken to court after posting on his blog in June 2020 about defacing a plaque to controversial blackface minstrel ‘Uncle Mack’ in Broadstairs.

He also left graffiti on the offices of St Peter’s Town Council, which hosts Broadstairs Folk Week, and on the Dickens Museum, owned by Thanet District Council.

Why do people say Dickens was racist?

Charles Dickens is one of the most beloved authors of the Victorian era.

His works, including A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, are seen as championing the plight of the working class during the industrial revolution. But some of his works have come under criticism for anti-Semitic and genocidal views since his death in 1870.

In 1857, after a failed Indian rebellion against the British East India Company, Dickens wrote that he wanted to “exterminate” the breed.

Dickens, writing as if he were an Indian citizen, said: “I … have the honor to inform you to the Hindu nobility that it is my intention, with all possible avoidance of undue cruelty and with all merciful speed of execution, to the Race of the Earth.’

In his book The Noble Savage he wrote, “I call a savage something highly desirable to be civilized from the face of the earth.”

His depiction of the character Fagin in Oliver Twist has also been described as anti-Semitic – both during Dickens’s time and today. The first 38 chapters of the book refer to Fagin as ‘the Jew’ more than 250 times’ compared to calling him ‘Fagin’ or ‘the old man’ 42 times.

Dickens said he made the character Jewish because it was “unfortunately true, from the time the story refers to, that the criminal’s class was almost always a Jew.”

It is housed in the cottage that inspired the author for Betsey Trotwood’s David Copperfield home.

Driver targeted both buildings and a street sign for Dickens Road and also left graffiti on the Uncle Mack memorial in Victoria Gardens.

This is dedicated to James Summerson, who led a blacked-out minstrel band that performed in the town between 1880 and 1920.

The plaque — which was covered in a wooden box as city officials deliberated over its removal — was covered in pink paint by Driver, who admitted his graffiti was “youthful.”

His slogans included ‘Dickens Racists’, ‘Racism by the Sea’, ‘Racist Folk Week’ and ‘Uncle Mack Must Go’.

Prosecutor Edmund Body told how the cost of damage from the graffiti eruption totaled £3,500 and said Driver could have used legal means to protest.

Driver, a former Citizens Advice manager, insisted he felt compelled to take ‘immediate action’ after contacting several institutions including Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and Broadstairs Town Council with concerns he had about ‘obscured Morris Dancers at Broadstairs Folk Festival.

He also described Dickens as a “genocidal racist”, adding that he believes the local authorities’ attitude towards controversial historical figures “perpetuates a culture” in which racism is acceptable.

Dickens also said he was concerned about several local authorities’ compliance with the Equalities Act.

He added that his “actions were sincere acts to protect others”, describing how he was “inspired” by the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests, of which he was one. locally before taunting Uncle Mack. plaque.

He also described how his self-proclaimed “citizen journalism” had inundated him with hundreds of negative comments on social media, leading him to believe that other ways to raise awareness for anti-racist causes would have been difficult.

Driver admitted responsibility for the graffiti last June but denied seven counts of criminal damage and said his actions could be justified.

Driver was taken to court after posting on his blog about defacement of a plaque to controversial blackface minstrel 'Uncle Mack' on the coast in his hometown of Broadstairs

Driver was taken to court after posting on his blog about defacement of a plaque to controversial blackface minstrel ‘Uncle Mack’ on the coast in his hometown of Broadstairs

He also asked the bank to consider the “excessive” 30 hours he had spent in custody and the 268 days on curfew before deliberating for more than an hour.

Sentencing, Magistrate Angela Moyles told Mr Driver: ‘We do not accept that there was an immediate lawful excuse or believe it was done to avoid circumstances that could not otherwise have been avoided.’

She addressed Mr Driver’s defence, telling him that it was not for the court to decide whether his actions were ‘justified’.

“The crucial question is not whether the defendant’s actions were justified, but whether he can be excused on the grounds that a reasonable person would have acted in the same way,” Ms Moyles said. Mr Driver’s court costs were waived.

Driver issued a lengthy self-defense to court in Margate, Kent, alleging he was driven into his graffiti actions after investigating 'institutionalized racist' local authorities

Driver issued a lengthy self-defense to court in Margate, Kent, alleging he was driven into his graffiti actions after investigating ‘institutionalized racist’ local authorities

After his appearance in court, Mr Driver said: ‘I have no regrets for what I have done and under similar circumstances I would do the same.

“I’m relieved and I think I had some sympathy from the magistrate.”

Reflecting on the trial, he said: ‘It was a fantastic learning process, although I knew from the start that I would never win because the defenses I used are not often successful.

“The fact that I was found guilty but then paroled is probably the lowest sentence you can get.”

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