Brexit supporter jailed for harassment
A Brexit supporter has been sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for harassing staff working for MPs he thought were trying to delay or stop the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In January this year Robert Vidler made calls or left voicemail messages at the offences of Nick Boles, Dominic Grieve, Sir Keir Starmer, Nicky Morgan, Barry Gardiner, and Jenny Chapman.
The 64-year-old from Harrow in North West London pleaded not guilty to five counts of harassment and three offences in breach of the Communications Act.
The offences were committed against the staff who took the calls or listened to the messages. In total there were 19 instances between 8-24 January, 16 of which were voicemails.
He was found guilty today (2 August) of all counts and sentenced to a total of 18 weeks' imprisonment. He was also made the subject of an indefinite Criminal Behaviour Order preventing him from contacting any MP apart from his local MP and ordered to pay £300 prosecution costs.
CPS London South prosecuted the case and presented evidence linking the mobile number to Vidler and details of what he said.
Sarah Jennings from the CPS said: “Vidler denied making the calls despite the extensive evidence shown to him during his police interviews. His actions went far beyond then just expressing his opinion. Staff felt alarmed by what he said and took his comments as threats against the MPs.”
In voicemail messages left for Nick Boles MP, Vidler swore at him, said he knew where he lived and threated to harm or kill the MP if he did not keep his “nose out of Brexit”.
Some of the nine voicemail messages left for Dominic Grieve contained threats of violence and Vidler said he knew where the MP and his family lived and his schedule.
Sir Keir Starmer was called “a traitor” and Vidler threated to kill the MP for Holborn & St Pancras. Nicky Morgan was told “your days were numbered”. On 16 January a voicemail message for Barry Gardiner said: “No deal means no deal. The only thing that will be extended is your neck”. A member of Jenny Chapman’s staff took Vidler’s short call on 21 January. He verbally abused the MP and said “We’re leaving the EU” before the call ended.
In his first police interview Vidler denied making any of the calls and said he sometimes let friends use his phone when he was drunk.
In the second interview when asked to confirm his whereabouts at the time of the calls he said he could not be certain because of his alcoholism. When the call data was put to him, he repeated his denial of making the calls and claimed the police officer had made it up.
Although records of outgoing calls were deleted from his mobile his internet search history was not. The prosecution told City of London Magistrates’ Court that this showed Vidler making numerous searches for the MPs’ contact details, often immediately before the calls. The searches were made throughout the day and night which reduced the chance of someone else using his phone. The offices of Nicky Morgan and Dominic Grieve were left voicemail messages at 3.50 and 3.54 on the morning of 16 January.
There was no evidence to support his claims that the phone calls have been made by another person.
Notes to editors
- Robert Vidler (DOB 19/05/1955) was convicted of three counts under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 and five counts under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. He was sentenced to 18 weeks for each count to be served concurrently.
- The MPs were:
- Nick Boles, Independent MP for Grantham and Stamford in Lincolnshire
- Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP for Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire
- Sir Keir Starmer, Labour MP for Holborn & St Pancras in London
- Nicky Morgan, Conservative MP for Loughborough in Leicestershire
- Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North in London
- Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington in County Durham
- Sarah Jennings is a specialist prosecutor for CPS London South.