Policital Blogger Olly Cromwell Found Guilty Under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003

Political Blogger “Olly Cromwell” (real name John Graham Kerlen) of the Bexley area was today found guilty of sending a grossly offensive communication subject to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, at Bexley Magistrate’s Court.

Cromwell posted two tweets which were the subject of today’s prosecution.

Cromwell first posted a photograph of Bexley concillor Melvin Seymour’s home, accompanied by the text:

“Which cunt lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil”

The tweet was later followed by another tweet:

“It’s silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual shit”

It appears to have been the prosecution’s assertion that Cromwell was encouraging his followers to post faeces through the letterbox of the address in the photograph.

Cromwell himself posted the full details of the prosecution disclosure and the witness statement on this blog here http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=3064

Cromwell had previously been charged with harrassment of Bexley Concillors over his blog. It appears that these charges never appeared in court. http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=2211 This latest case appears to a continuation of legal attempts to silence or moderate Cromwell’s online activities.

Cromwell had also posted a blog post in May 2011 “The Bitter and Twisted Guided Tour – Tour of Cuntsville – Coming Soon!” containing a list of home addresses for various Bexley councillors http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=2526

Cromwell appears to style himself in the mould of political bloggers such as Guido Fawkes, which I suppose explains the adopted name. The question in front of the court today was whether Cromwell’s somewhat confrontational style had overstepped the bounds of decency. To quote the defence at today’s hearing, Cromwell would have needed to go “beyond the pale of what is tolerable in our society” in order to be found guilty.

An excellent blog post on the facts of today’s hearing from an eyewitness can be found here. http://bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/2012/april.shtml#13pt2

What is striking is that despite the defence requesting for sentencing to be decided to today, the District Judge instead decided to set a sentencing hearing at Bromley Magistrates Court on Wednesday 9th May at 13:30, with a representative of the Probation service present. This raises a question as to whether a custodial sentence may be given. An offence under s127 of the Communication Acts 2003 can lead to a custodial sentence of up to 6 months.

Taken in isolation, Olly Cromwell’s tweets are fairly inoffensive. the question is whether the cumulative effect of Cromwell’s activities is sufficient to give the tweets the requisite offensive or menacing context required by section 127.

An interesting case, to be sure.

Another blog on the hearing can be found here:

11 thoughts on “Policital Blogger Olly Cromwell Found Guilty Under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003

  1. Pingback: Tweeter prosecuted for swearing | Liberal Conspiracy

  2. Nice to see an informative and measured piece on this. But it makes all the clearer that bemusement and indignation are the appropriate responses to the case. If someone did post shit through a councillor’s letterbox, it would be an indefensibly unpleasant act, but it’s very hard to see how it could justify a custodial sentence. To make a remark encouraging others to do so – which might or might not be taken literally, and looks more like a joke to me – surely can’t be regarded as more serious. Something is out of whack here.

  3. Are you sure he was found not guilty of harassment – other sites say charges were dropped, and the letter in the post you linked to is a warning, not charges.

    • I reported this very quickly, on the basis of information on various blogs. It does appear now (after further investigation) that the charges were dropped, rather than proceeding to trial.

  4. Adjourning sentencing for a PSR (pre-sentence report) is in my experience far more likely to mean that a community sentence is under consideration. The main reason to have a representative from the probation service present is to explain what sort of non-custodial sentence is deemed appropriate, and why. (For example, a very common community sentence order is unpaid work, but there may be good reasons why this is inappropriate in a particular case.) On the facts as reported I would be very surprised if the custody threshold was crossed here.

    • It is probably worth considering that Cromwell/Kerlen’s child is apparently expected within days of that sentencing date.

  5. Pingback: U.K. Blogger Olly Cromwell Arrested For Using the Word Cunt On Twitter | govtslaves.info

  6. You wrote:

    “Taking in isolation, Olly Cromwell’s tweets are fairly inoffensive. the question is whether the cumulative effect of Cromwell’s activities is sufficient to give the tweets the requisite offensive or menacing context required by section 127.”

    The #TwitterJokeTrial judgements tend to suggest that the CPS and the courts are not really interested in the *actual* context of a tweet when deciding whether it is menacing or offensive under section 127.

    For example, the actual context at the time Paul Chambers posted (“sent” in the eyes of the courts even though there was no addressee or recipient) was that the airport was closed; and yet Paul was convicted on the basis that a context could be imagined in which people visiting the airport felt menaced by his tweet (even though nobody actually did fell menaced).

    The various judgements against Paul Chambers would seem to confirm that, in order to fall foul of 127, you don’t need to intend menace or offence, you don’t need to cause actual perceptions of menace or offence in anyone, and there may not be any *actual* context in which the perception of offence or menace becomes a serious possibility (which perhaps ought to have been foreseen by a reasonable person).

    It is, it seems, enough that a prosecutor can contrive some imaginary context in which a tweet might cause offence or menace to somebody, who was completely unaware of the actual context in which the tweet was posted, and that is enough to convict under s 127.

    Of course the way in which the CPS and courts are interpreting s 127 goes way beyond the original intentions of those who drew up this clause, but, since the CPS and the courts have decided as they have and are clearly going to continue in this way, all of us are placed in a Kafkaesque situation where anything we say might be awarded an imaginary context which renders our words “objectively” menacing or offensive and become the basis of a prosecution.

    I find this state of affairs deeply disturbing.

    See also my comment under Dave Allen Green’s article in the Lawyer http://www.thelawyer.com/bad-law-%E2%80%93-the-twitterjoketrial-appeal/1011289.article and my blog post: If Paul Chambers’s conviction is allowed to stand, what should we not do in future?http://badreason99.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/if-paul-chamberss-conviction-is-allowed.html

    PS Great summary of the #FreeTheBexleyOne case BTW – this is the only post I’ve found that actually explains the thing properly.

  7. Pingback: Let’s all stop this nonsense about the word “cunt” | PitKanary