Len Lowther claims tweets to Sunderland MP Julie Elliott were criticism not harassment as case is adjourned
A man accused of harassing Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott via Twitter has said that was not the intention of his posts and that she should be open to criticism as a politician.
Following evidence from the investigating police officer and Ms Elliott yesterday, Tuesday, February 16, today’s session heard from the MP’s office manager Graham March.
Mr March, who monitored social media channels, referred to another case where a man was convicted for using the phrase “Hang the old hag” in relation to Ms Elliott.
Mr March said: “It was established that it was harassment, we all knew that, yet this man was trying to whip up a mob to commit harassment of Julie Elliott.
“So yes, I was disgusted by it.”
He said the team felt like “sitting ducks” with concerns someone would be attacked or hurt due to the online messages.
In her evidence, Ms Elliott had said the posts on social media had been “relentless” and she had been left feeling she could not go into Sunderland city centre alone and would sometimes not leave her home.
Simon Myerson QC, defending, raised the point police were not contacted for some months and noted the office could have muted or blocked the defendant.
Mr March said it was “uncharted water” at that time and it was felt best to be monitored and assessed.
Mr Myerson QC said his client would not be giving evidence, with the written statements given to police read to District Judge Kathryn Meek
In them, the defendant claimed it was he who was being harassed by police, having been interviewed a number of times and his computer seized.
He said Ms Elliott and her son Miles had created a fake document to incriminate a man and the police, crime commissioner and Labour North had been involved in that – Ms Elliott and her team said claims they created it were not true in evidence.
In another statement, he said his: “Tweets in relation to Julie Elliott were political and as an MP is open to criticism” but said his posts did not intend to scare, threaten or intimidate her.
In his closing speech, Mr Myerson said it was the defence’s case that it was not harassment, stating the posts were “repetitious but not taunting, a clear feeling about misjustice.”
In her closing speech, Rachel Masters, prosecuting said: “The course of conduct is harassment – from the posts it is clear this is not a case of healthy political debate, but blatant misuse of social media.”She also noted the source of the defendant’s initial issues were over Sunderland City Council’s planning and redevelopments, but none of the posts referred to that.
District Judge Meek adjourned the case to a date to be arranged to give her judgement, releasing Lowther on bail for four weeks.