Man guilty over abusive emails sent to Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry

·3-min read
Sir Keir Starmer (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

A man has been found guilty of harassment after sending hundreds of abusive and threatening emails to Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry

David Knott, 46, from Islington north London had denied two counts of harassment against staff members of the Labour leader and his local MP.

Knott, who represented himself, was accused sending an “excessive number of abusive emails” to them on different dates between December 25 2019 and February 24 2021.

The court heard Knott, who was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon, often used profanities in his communication with the staff and threatened to protest outside their constituency offices multiple times.

Emily Thornberry (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)
Emily Thornberry (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

His emails were related to an “ongoing casework matter” about housing.

District Judge Alexander Jacobs said the emails went over a “line that must never be crossed”.

He told Knott: “I believe you are well aware your language was abusive and should not have been used.

“Any reasonable person would have known the number of emails and the language used would have caused harassment.”

Jennifer Gatland, prosecuting, told the court that many of the emails were “rambling and incoherent”.

She said among the hundreds of emails sent, Knott had accused the staff members of “being incompetent to the point of illegality”.

Ms Gatland went on to read the witness statement of a member of Sir Keir’s staff, which said: “I found the language and tone of the emails distressing and they made me very concerned.

“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.”

The court heard that a cease and desist letter was sent to Knott – but the emails continued.

Knott told the court that he was trying to complain to the MPs about the condition of his former apartment in Camden – which left him and his late quadriplegic partner “sleepless for six months”.

He said that ongoing London Underground work had left the noise in the apartment “unbearable” and he was trying to warn the MPs to stop letting tenants live there.

The condition of the apartment meant his partner was hallucinating things such as “demons coming out of the wall”, he told the court.

He said this worsened his partner’s condition before his death.

Growing increasingly animated in the witness box, Knott said: “I had six months of torture and sleep deprivation in that place – 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.

“I spent four years trying to get a response from these people – my MP’s treatment of me is absolutely disgusting.

“I’m working class and I used the words as an expression of the torture I have suffered.”

Asked if he knew the emails were a form of harassment, he said: “I don’t care what they felt – I want them to do their job.”

Knott went on to say he sent them as a form of “protest”.

He will be sentenced on October 1 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

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