Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer harassed by disgruntled resident over housing complaint

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Archive)
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Archive)

A disgruntled north Londoner harassed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry by deluging them with hundreds of rambling emails, a court has heard.

Islington resident David Knott, 46, sent messages to Sir Keir’s staff and the office of his local MP, Ms Thornberry, over the course of 20 months, complaining frequently about a housing problem.

Westminster magistrates court heard the messages were “rambling and incoherent”, accusing Sir Keir’s staff of being “incompetent to the point of illegality”.

At trial, Knott claimed his messages had been a form of “protest”, saying he and his late partner had suffered six months of sleepless night at their Camden home due to TfL works nearby.

He was convicted of two counts of harassment, and District Judge Michael Snow on Friday sentenced Knott to a community order, including a three-month night-time curfew.

“We live in a rather frightening time”, said the judge. “Frightening because individuals hide behind written communications to frequently abuse and threaten members of the public, public faces, and politicians.

“All of these individuals are entitled to go about their business without living in fear of being harassed or distressed.

“If this were a case where you had threatened these individuals, I would have sent you to prison straight away today. If this was a case where you had abused those individuals, I would have sent you to prison straight away today. But you did not do those things, you are a man who suffers poor health himself, and because you have no previous convictions.”

David Knott, outside Westminster magistrates court (PA)
David Knott, outside Westminster magistrates court (PA)

He said the harassment, between December 25 2019 and February 24 this year, was “persistent and directed towards Members of Parliament who are extremely vulnerable to this type of harassment”.

Knott had sent foul-mouthed emails to the MPs’ staff and threatened to protest outside their constituency offices multiple times.

“I found the language and tone of the emails distressing and they made me very concerned,” said one of Sir Keir’s staff.

“The persistent threat of protest made me feel extremely anxious.”

A member of Ms Thornberry’s staff said in a witness statement: “I was very offended and distressed with the abusive language sent many times during a day.”

Knott told his trial that London Underground work had caused “unbearable” noise at his former home, and he was trying to warn the MPs to stop letting tenants live there.

“I had six months of torture and sleep deprivation in that place”, he said. “I was left holding on to my quadriplegic partner for six months – he was never the same again.

“I sent those emails to avoid it happening to other people – I would have liked to have used Oxford Dictionary words but my language and education let me down.”

The court heard Knott is illiterate and dictated the messages to be sent to the MPs, and now wanted to apologise “for having caused the victims to feel the way in which they did”.

He denied but was convicted of two counts of harassment.

Knott is banned under a two-year restraining order from contacting the MPs, he must pay £520 in costs, and is under a 9pm to 5am curfew for the next eight weeks.

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