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Because of the amazing amount of interest being shown in Olly’s court hearing
- the website is currently under the strain of 30 odd visitors at any one time
- I shall take the unusual step of writing it direct to the web so you will see
the report as it is written and get to know what went on at the earliest
possible moment. Expect an amount of spelling errors along the way so please
come back for another look later.
The hearing was listed for 10:00 in Bexley Court 3. Even by 9:45 I counted 31 people who were keen to sit in the public gallery. They included some Notomob members, a few unknowns who had turned up because they had read about the case here, a couple of journalists - and me, all keen to be first in. And therein lay a problem, Court 3 has only seven seats for the public and one was being occupied by a court official. This gave rise to suggestions that it was all part of a conspiracy to ensure justice would not be seen to be done; however this can probably be discounted as the court staff went out of their way to be helpful and found another eight chairs and squeezed them into odd corners. Obviously Olly’s wife, mother and brother and Jim Palmer from the News Shopper had to be allowed in so about two thirds of the concerned members of the public had to forego their right to see the wheels of justice turning. It was slightly amusing to see the two Bexleyheath policeman who had raided Olly’s house at dawn fail to get a seat. They may have been DS Alastair Venner and PC Dwyer but I cannot be certain of that.
Councillors Melvin Seymour and Sandra Bauer arrived a little before ten and disappeared into a back room. Ms. Bauer was not seen again. I’m not sure whether she is a malicious mischief maker or naive and totally out of her depth. Was her transformation of “post actual shit” into put dog mess through letter boxes sweet innocence or another example of Bexley councillors habitual lying? It is of little consequence either way, she was just the messenger - but she won’t be allowed to forget it.
No other councillors turned up in support of councillor Melvin Seymour. I have no doubt that today’s case is not solely at Seymour’s bidding and several of Bexley’s bully boys are behind it but it wasn’t especially obvious today except that Seymour, his prosecution lawyer and the Judge all kept referring to him as councillor and that councillors are due respect and an entitlement to a private life. Only councillors? Why are they so important?
The seating kerfuffle and the usual court delays meant that the hearing under District Judge Julia Newton didn’t start until 11:15. She went to great lengths to assure everyone that she wasn’t best mates with any Bexley councillor. I tried to obtain the names of all the principal participants but the prosecutor refused to give his. Jim Palmer from the News Shopper was similarly rebuffed but being a professional he found a way of getting it another way. Maybe it will appear in his report.
The prosecutor read out the charge and no one flinched from the use of the ‘C’ word. He said that Olly had been “grossly offensive”. The defence barrister said that the use of the word “was not of such a nature as to fall foul of the act”. The prosecutor said he wanted a restraining order to be placed on Olly even if he was acquitted.
The defence barrister said it was not good enough for councillor Seymour to say he was offended, the Law Lords had pronounced on what was offensive back in 2007. She said it had been ruled that someone who had posted pictures of aborted foetuses directly to the account of a pro-abortion campaigner did just breach the act but an unidentified picture of a rather nondescript house did not. In another case the Lords ruled that addressing someone in an aggressive manner including the use of the words Nigger and Paki was in breach of that Act but, the defence said, Olly calling no one in particular a c**t did not. The defence contended that Melvin Seymour should not be called as a witness because he was not a witness - he had never seen the Tweet - and some might argue that being unnamed by Olly it was hard to see him as a victim either. In the first sign of things to come, the Judge disagreed.
(Oh, make that more than 50 simultaneous viewers. My web space provider is going to ask for more money!)
Councillor Seymour was then called. It was still only 11:25. He swore on the Bible to tell the truth and immediately tried to cast Olly in the worst possible light. Those who know Olly outside his on-line persona know that he is unfailingly polite and I have never heard a swear word pass his lips. Seymour said that when Olly first moved into his street he knocked on Olly’s door to advise him of some newly changed parking restrictions and had the door slammed in his face. I find that hard to believe and Olly told me later it simply wasn’t true. Seymour went on about Olly’s alleged misbehaviour at council meetings but fortunately the Judge shut him up.
Seymour then related how Olly had planned to put dog mess through his letter box. Under questioning he admitted that he had not seen any of the original Tweets and was relying on hearsay from Sandra Bauer. The Judge for some unfathomable reason was prepared to accept hearsay evidence. Seymour went on to say how he felt intimidated by the prospect of doggy mess through his door. It may be worth pointing out that Seymour is a tall well built bloke with, as already stated, a gang of ugly brutes for friends.
He said that Olly had identified his house when of course a major plank of Olly’s defence is that he did not. Seymour was asked again to confirm that Olly had identified him by address and under oath he repeated his claim. In fact it was this website which first (no second, it was on Bexley council’s site first) provided Seymour’s address having obtained it from the Public Record of Members’ Interests and for doing so was rewarded with far worse obscenities and character assassination than Olly has ever dreamed of.
The prosecution then read out a transcript of Olly’s police interview given after they had persuaded him he didn’t need a lawyer. In it Olly agreed he “pushed boundaries” and maybe his Tweet had over-reached it. The prosecution then regurgitated a load of old stories relating to harassment, seemingly oblivious of the fact that Olly had already been found not guilty on that charge. When he had finished, the defence barrister said all of that was irrelevant and suggested to the Judge that there was no case to answer as the ‘C’ word is no longer grossly offensive and the Tweet could not be menacing because it was not aimed at any individual that could be readily identified. The only people who knew whose house had been pictured were those who were already familiar with it.
She said that the prosecution must produce evidence of intent to menace and they had not. There had, she said, never before been a prosecution under Section 127 of the Act that did not involve sending messages to particular and individually selected recipients. Olly’s case was far removed from that. She said for Olly to be guilty he would have needed to go “beyond the pale of what is tolerable in our society”. The defence said “if the use of four letter words is acceptable we are in a sorry state”. Given that the word is heard on TV and frequently in films it seemed a pretty pathetic argument but the Judge was evidently persuaded by it. She said there was a case to answer.
It was accepted by both sides that Olly is a man of previous good character, no convictions or warnings of any sort whatsoever and the case was adjourned for 75 minutes to reconvene at 13:45. In the event it didn’t restart until 14:08.
Some members of the public present in the morning had gone home allowing the two policemen in and the four thugs who menaced and abused me later on. The Judge made the point, which had not gone unmentioned before, that in the aforesaid Law Lords ruling it was said that it wasn’t necessary for an offensive message to be received for it to be potentially illegal, the act of sending it was enough, so the fact that Seymour hadn’t been aware of it was irrelevant and she proceeded to find Olly guilty. She refused the defence request to sentence there and then but demanded that a Probation Service representative be summoned to arrange pre-sentence reports with a hearing set for Bromley Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 9th May at 13:30. A custodial sentence was predicted by some present, the prosecution having previously called for six months. They said they would be applying for costs against Olly “which would be considerable”.
It may be worth mentioning that I feel that the many Twitter posts saying how it is now illegal to call someone a c**t on the net are missing half the point. It apparently is, even if the object of that epithet is not identified; that's the “grossly offensive” bit. But the case also hinges on the meaning of the words, “post actual shit”. I had always assumed that that was something to do with filling mail boxes with spam, but apparently, when it suits them, some people are literalists and regard it as menacing. The Judge has ruled that the literalists are right and Olly is guilty on both counts.
I know Olly wishes to thank everyone who offered support today and I expect he would have been especially pleased with the messages that came from some unexpected quarters.
While I was being accosted outside by Seymour’s thuggish finger jabbing friends (Seymour and his wife had the good sense to walk on by in a dignified manner) the two policeman who charged Olly walked by and ignored my predicament. I didn’t feel in any particular danger under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera, passers by and half a dozen Notomobbers close by, but the police did not know that. Bexley’s finest, what else should I expect?
With the exception of the possible addition of photographs this blog is considered to be complete at 20:45 hours.