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Essex man convicted of harassing family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby

31/07/2015

Christopher Spivey has been convicted today of harassing the family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby after a two day trial at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, Jenny Hopkins said: "Mr Spivey posted a number of comments on social media about the murder of Fusilier Rigby which were very upsetting to his family and friends.

"People can and do post all kinds of comments on social media and are not prosecuted for them, but in this case we were satisfied that the posts crossed the line into criminal behaviour targeted at the Rigby family.

"The prosecution's case was that the combination of the postings, containing a mixture of grossly offensive remarks about the Rigby family, upsetting assertions surrounding the murder, and the publication of details of two of the family's homes, could not be justified under freedom of speech.

"After hearing all the evidence, the court has found Mr Spivey's behaviour in uploading these posts amounted to the harassment of Lyn Rigby and Sara McClure, Fusilier Rigby's mother and sister."

Mr Spivey was convicted of harassment of Mrs Rigby and Ms McClure and also of two charges of sending a message by means of a public electronic communications network that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. Sentencing was adjourned to 27 August 2015.

Ms Hopkins said: "Everyone should be able to go about their daily lives free from harassment caused by someone deliberately making grossly offensive messages about them on social media.

"We take allegations of this kind very seriously, especially where there is evidence of a course of conduct which causes fear or distress to someone, and which in this case made the victims feel unsafe in their own homes."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. Fusilier Rigby, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, was murdered as he returned to his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London on 22 May 2013. He died of multiple cut and stab wounds
  2. Michael Adebolajo was given a whole-life term and Michael Adebowale was jailed for a minimum of 45 years at the Old Bailey on 26 February 2014 for the murder of Fusilier Rigby.
  3. Christopher Spivey was charged as follows:
    1. Between 23/05/2013 and 20/06/2014 at Rochford in the county of Essex pursued a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of Lyn Rigby and which you knew or ought to have known amounted to the harassment of her  in that he published the following material on his Facebook page, and/or on his website.a) Assertions that the murder of her son, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich was a hoax. b) An assertion that Robert Sargeant, her daughter's partner, was in fact Lee Rigby. c) An image of Lyn Rigby and her partner being interviewed in her home, showing photographs of Lee Rigby, with a commentary asserting the pictures of Lee are photo shopped, and comments about the dog tag and poppy which Lyn Rigby is wearing. d) Details of the address of Lyn Rigby's home, including photographs. e) Details of the address of Lee Rigby's sister, Sara McClure's home. f) Photographs of members of the Rigby family, including a Christmas tree in their home and images of her grandchildren. g) Suggestions that either Lee Rigby actually never existed, or that the family are involved in a conspiracy with MI5. h) A suggestion that Lee Rigby was a rapist. i) An assertion that Gavin Vitler had visited Lyn Rigby's address the week before a posting on 15th July 2014 Contrary to section 2(1) and (2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
    2. Between a date unknown on or before 20/06/2014 and 11/11/2014 at Rochford in the county of Essex  pursued a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of Sara McClure and which you knew or ought to have known amounted to the harassment of her  in that he published the following material on his Facebook page, and/or on his website:- a) Assertions that the murder of her brother, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich was a hoax. b) Photographs of her home address. c) Photographs of her children, and their names. d) Photographs of Lee Rigby, and her partner, Robert Sargeant, accompanied by the assertion that the two men are of similar appearance, and that Robert Sargeant was, in fact Lee Rigby. e) A photograph showing that Lee Rigby and Robert Sargeant were both in the same battalion. f) An assertion that Gavin Vitler was seen to visit her mother's home with a woman. Contrary to section 2(1) and (2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
    3. On 13/07/2014 at Rochford in the county of Essex  sent by means of a public electronic communications network a message  that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character Contrary to section 127(1)(a) and (3) of the Communications Act 2003.
    4. Between 23/05/2013 and 20/06/2014 at Rochford in the county of Essex  sent by means of a public electronic communications network a message  that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character Contrary to section 127(1)(a) and (3) of the Communications Act 2003.
  4. Read the CPS Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent by social media
  5. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  6. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  7. At 31 March 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  8. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.