Man who claimed to be a "citizen journalist" found guilty of harassment
A man who used social media channels to name “criminals” who were in fact innocent has been found guilty of harassment at Wirral Magistrates Court.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Paul Hendry, 59, of Pevensey Bay near Eastbourne, used Twitter and YouTube to claim that a 40-year-old man from Birkenhead was a “drug and gun lord”. The claims were totally untrue.
Hendry claimed the man was supplying guns, drugs, was involved in human trafficking and was linked to a criminal cartel. He also implicated the man in recent shootings on Merseyside by alleging he supplied firearms. The claims led the victim to fear for the safety of himself and his family and affected his employment.
Hendry uses the online pseudonym “Art Hostage” on a number of social media channels, in particular Twitter, where he has 11,000 followers, and YouTube, where he has more than 7,200 subscribers.
He uses the channels to provide an ongoing commentary on crime around the UK and presents himself as a “citizen journalist”. His YouTube channel is a daily Podcast, and the Twitter account makes multiple posts daily, talking about various gang-based crime and alleged Organised Crime members, and sharing news stories about ongoing criminal investigations.
“Art Hostage” came to the attention of Merseyside Police in September 2022 when he shifted his focus to the Merseyside area. He began releasing numerous videos and posts openly discussing a series of recent murders. He passed on the names of people he believed to be involved, apparent motives and alleged facts which caused several issues in the communities where the murders had taken place.
The police began an investigation into who Art Hostage was and they identified Hendry. He had been convicted of obtaining property by deception and benefit fraud in September 2010.
He was traced to his address in Pevensey Bay. He was issued with a Cease and Desist Order by Merseyside Police concerning his social media posts about the killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel. It was feared these would prejudice the trial of the man subsequently convicted of the murder, Thomas Cashman.
Hendry broadcasted a live YouTube post about the notice and promised to abide by it, which he did.
However, the following month, he was found to be commenting on another Merseyside murder case, naming people he claimed were involved. The unfounded information led to one man being assaulted. Hendry seemed to revel in the chaos he had caused and stated on his Twitter account, “ALL OUT WAR DECLARED”.
On 9 November 2022, Merseyside Police received a 999 call from the victim in this case, stating that a man known as “Art Hostage” had uploaded a video to YouTube accusing him of being a “high level gangster” and implicating him in a Merseyside murder. The video included details of the victim’s name, address and business. Hendry told his followers to “look into” the victim.
These and similar allegations, made on Hendry’s Twitter account, led to the victim genuinely fearing for his and his family’s safety.
On 24 November 2022, a warrant was issued for Hendry’s arrest and he was later charged with harassment and sending via a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another.
Hendry defended himself by saying his victim would not be caused distress because he was a “scumbag criminal” and that he had information about him from a number of sources including from law enforcement agencies. Enquiries were made by the police and other law enforcement agencies and no such intelligence was found.
On 3 August 2023, Hendry was found guilty of harassment after a trial at Wirral Magistrates' Court and was fined £250. He must also pay costs of £660 and a victim surcharge of £100. He was acquitted of the second offence.
The Crown Prosecution Service also successfully applied for a restraining order to be imposed, protecting the victim from being the subject of any publication by Hendry either directly or indirectly.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Thomas Hanlon of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “Paul Hendry claims to be a form of crime journalist. But his social media posts were nothing but fiction claiming to be fact and caused real problems for those involved.
“He creates this content to raise the profile of his social media and YouTube channels, feeding his ego, reckless as to the collateral damage his content causes and without conducting due diligence on the information received.
“Spurious allegations such as these cause real problems for our communities and ongoing investigations by the police. They can also endanger the trial process for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts.
“This victim had nothing to do with the crimes Hendry accused him of being connected with. His course of conduct implicating the man with high level organised crime, firearms and drug dealing is criminal and he has now been found guilty."