|Born||Rowan James Laxton|
Rowan Laxton joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1993, served in a number of FCO departments in London, was posted to Pakistan (1997-2000) and Afghanistan (2002-2003) and was appointed British High Commissioner to the Republic of Cameroon in October 2017.
Out of earshot?
In 2006, Rowan Laxton was using an exercise bike alone on the mezzanine floor of the London Business School gym when he saw a television report about an elderly Palestinian man killed by the Israeli assault on Gaza. Laxton allegedly exclaimed:
Gideon Falter (now head of the CAA) and William Lemaine, who were on a lower floor using weights, claimed to have overheard Laxton, and complained to staff at the gym.
The police were going to let Laxton off with a caution but, before it could be arranged, Falter found out that Laxton was a senior Foreign Office official and brought the story to half a dozen newspapers. The police decided to proceed with a prosecution.
Laxton was initially found guilty of “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour… within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby…” aggravated by using abusive words that had a racial or ethnic element. Laxton was fined and removed from his Foreign Office position.
Acquitted on appeal
Laxton exercised his right to an appeal and a rehearing wherein the Crown Court found that Laxton did not say “f…..g Jews”, the comment on which the prosecution was based and which he had always denied. The court also found, as an alternative ground, that Laxton would have thought no one was within earshot.
The Daily Mail played a key role in ensuring that the case received national attention and went to trial, but seems not to have reported the appeal and acquittal at all. It is an open question of how Falter heard Laxton’s alleged outburst, if at the time no one was within earshot of Laxton. One reasonable assumption is that the court did not believe that Falter actually heard Laxton’s statement.
Hardcore Zionist charity
Eight years after the Laxton incident, Gideon Falter founded the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a hardcore Zionist charity that advocates zero tolerance of, and vows to ensure “criminal, professional and reputational consequences”, to those it decides are anti-semites.