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Man sentenced for sending menacing and threatening messages to politicians

|News, Cyber / online crime

A man who sent politicians a series of menacing and threatening messages - including death threats - has been sentenced.

Paul Ritchie, 35, from Lanarkshire, Scotland, admitted 28 counts of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety. He was sentenced today at Southwark Crown Court to 12 months in prison. 

Between March and August 2019, Ritchie sent messages to a series of politicians, apparently prompted by comments they had made publicly about Brexit.

These messages included an email sent to the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey which read: “If you stop brexit we will kill you and your entire family”. Another email - to Dominic Grieve - read: “Everyone around you will suffer personally.” Ritchie also sent a blank email to former Commons Speaker John Bercow with the subject “#jocox”.

Messages were also sent to Jeremy Corbyn, Amber Rudd, Chuka Umunna, Jo Swinson, Rory Stewart, Adam Price, Tom Brake, Philip Lee and Ian Blackford. Communications data obtained during the investigation indicated that messages had been sent from an address in London W1, where Ritchie was arrested in July 2019.

Often the messages were initially read by staff who managed the mailboxes, who reported shock, disgust and, in more than one case, their extreme alarm at the messages received. Many of the messages were forwarded on to the intended recipients by staff concerned about a potential security threat to the politician. On arrest, Ritchie refused to co-operate with police, but a painstaking investigation and timely presentation of the evidence left the defendant with little option but to admit his guilt at court.

Paul Goddard from the CPS said: “The barrage of messages Ritchie sent in the direction of politicians across the political spectrum was disturbing and caused alarm and distress among his targets and also their staff. They contained vile and nasty personal comments as well as threats to cause extreme violence including, on one occasion, death by decapitation.

“While individuals have the right to express their views to elected officials, those serving the public should and must be able to go about their work without fear of receiving these types of communications. Ritchie has at least admitted that his actions caused recipients distress and this case should act as a warning to anyone sending malicious messages that they face prosecution.”

Notes to editors

  • Paul Ritchie (DOB: 02/06/1986) is from Lanarkshire, Scotland. 
  • Ritchie admitted 28 counts of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety, contrary to section 1(1)(a) of the Malicious Communications Act 1988.
  • Paul Goddard is a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the Complex Casework Unit in CPS London South.

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