A 'far-right extremist' who threatened to shoot one Sunderland MP and 'hurt' another has been jailed
A ‘far-right extremist’ who threatened to shoot and kill an MP during a terrifying campaign of ‘vigilante democracy’ because she supported a second Brexit referendum has been jailed.
Colin Brown, who had "expressed support" for the murder of Jo Cox, said he wanted to "make an example" of Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South.
The 50-year-old, who has a previous conviction for hurling racial abuse at council staff, also threatened he was going to "hurt" Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central and said politicians needed "shooting".
During the shocking threats he made in 2019, Brown warned he would drive a car into a mosque in a bid to target Muslims.
At Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Tim Gittins sentenced Brown to 18 months behind bars and said the jail term was a "deterrent to others who seek to poison democratic and political debate by threatening those who disagree with you".
Judge Gittins told Brown some of his statements were "chilling" and told him: "It is clear you hold some views that are extreme and appalling in relation to race and religion.
"You took exception to the local MP's stance on withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.
"You are perfectly entitled to hold a different view to anyone, as is she.
"What you are not entitled to do is threaten serious violence and death to that person holding a different view."
Judge Gittins added: "It is clear you intended your threats to cause serious damage, to cause terror by your words."
The judge said Brexit going ahead had appeared to have halted Brown's behaviour, but issued restraining orders to keep him away from both women.
In a victim statement, Mrs Phillipson said the threats to her were "very worrying and distressing" and added: "I work hard to serve my community. I am concerned for the safety of myself, my family and my staff.
"Due to the repeated nature and violence involved in the threats towards me I am fearful he may carry out his threats.
"My role in the community puts me in contact with members of the public on a regular basis, at public forms and surgeries.
"I am concerned he will attend one of those events and put myself and other people in danger.
"I understand the strength of feeling around political issues.
"I work tirelessly to support my community and it should not be part of my role or an expectation people can make threats without facing consequences.
"They must understand the impact these things have."
Mrs Elliott, who shares an office with Mrs Phillipson, said she got a "sick feeling inside" and added: "I appreciate I am an MP but I am also a human being. I have a family therefore this also impacts on them."
The court heard Brown was an inpatient at Hopewood Hospital in Sunderland when he attended a meeting, attended by doctors and health professionals, in May 2019 and was asked about the beliefs he had expressed about Jo Cox.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw said: "He stated there would be more Jo Cox's."
The court heard Brown was told his opinions could amount to criminal behaviour and he responded by saying "all politicians are criminals".
While being escorted back to his room at the hospital Brown said he could "easily obtain a rifle and shoot Mrs Philipson".
Mr Wardlaw said it was noted Brown had "no remorse" for the comments and threats he was making when confronted.
During another meeting with medics in August, the court heard Brown repeated the comments and threats he had made and confirmed he still held the same views in respect of politicians.
Mr Wardlaw added: "He said if he was terminally ill he would drive a car into a mosque.
"He said as politicians go against the will of the people they should be treated at traitors.
"He said he was far-right extremist and his comments were not attributable to mental illness."
When questioned by the police, Brown said "MPs needed shooting for what they had done to the country" and said "MPs are attempting to keep the UK in Europe despite the result of the referendum".
Brown told detectives he had targeted Miss Phillipson because he "supported a second referendum and acted contrary to the wishes of the people of Sunderland" and threatened to shoot her to "make an example of her".
When asked if he would actually carry out his threats to Miss Phillipson, Brown told police: "If it came to a second referendum I would contemplate it".
Brown admitted he did not have a firearm but would be able to source one from unnamed contacts and had been military trained.
It was during day release from the hospital in December 2019 Brown made a series of calls to medical staff repeating the threats to Mrs Phillipson and said he was going to hurt Julie Elliott MP.
Brown said during the conversations "I'm doing vigilante democracy" and warned: "I've got to do what I've got to do."
Brown, of no fixed address, admitted two charges of making threats to kill, using threatening behaviour with intention to cause harassment, threatening to damage property, sending threatening communication.
He also admitted assault and common assault after he threw a chair and injured two health care workers while being treated in hospital.
Penny Hall, defending, said: "At the time he was an inpatient in hospital, being treated for his mental health.
"Fortunately he did not act on his threats at all."