Seven times I have been in Court with Olly Cromwell, I think I know every
aspect of it now so when the Prosecutor started her spiel at 10:34 this morning
I knew it was a rather superficial account but there wasn’t much to pick holes
in. To say that Olly’s Tweets were ‘an out and out threat to his
[Seymour’s] family” was probably gilding the lily somewhat, but then that is
what this case has always been about.
The first sense that this hearing was going to go Olly’s way came as soon as the Judge made a comment. He said the prosecution case did not show that Olly intended any offence. The prosecutor argued something but she was using a dud microphone, however the Judge still thought that she would have to show some intent.
The Judge then summarised his understanding of the case for the defence barrister’s agreement. Simon Connolly, speaking for Olly, did agree but said in legalese that if the Judge did not find for Olly on the basis of the evidence he would make further submissions; based on the law of precedents etc. I believe. And so the scene was set for the first witness to be called.
I’ve never been sure if councillor Sandra Bauer is a naive innocent in a wicked world or a liar who had maliciously teamed up with councillor Melvin Seymour to silence a council critic. Whether it was a team effort or not is still not clear but she came across as a credible witness and acquitted herself reasonably well under pressure.
It was puzzling that she was absolutely insistent that she had sent copies of the Tweets to Melvin Seymour because he had said under oath at the Magistrate’s Court in April that he had never seen them before. The Prosecutor said the same two weeks ago. In the circumstances I am going to assume that Sandra Bauer was telling the truth because in other respects she seems to have been playing it straight. I shall not be using the L word about her any more because I came to the conclusion on the evidence seen today that she doesn’t deserve it. Seymour by contrast came across as the shiftiest of wide boys anxious to stretch a point or two.
Bauer said that she thought Olly’s Tweets were threatening and that is why she reported them to Seymour. Simon Connolly asked if she found Olly’s other jokey messages threatening, like the one saying he would organise a bus tour of councillors’ houses. She was eventually forced into admitting she did not. When asked if Olly’s Tweets may have been done for a laugh, she replied “Perhaps”. If she found the ‘post actual shit’ remark threatening did she check back to see if an address had been posted? “No.” “Did you ever suggest to Melvin Seymour that the threat was to put dog faeces through his letter box?” Again the answer was no.
The arresting policeman, DS Vanner, was put into the witness box. He admitted that he saw no urgency to arrest Olly quickly with the implication that he didn’t take the Tweet to be a serious threat either.
Then it was councillor Melvin Seymour’s turn. He told the Court that he was told that Olly was encouraging people to put dog faeces and “anything else deemed appropriate” through his letter box. Well that’s a new one fresh out of the Bexley council fib factory and is not what Sandra said. "I found it grossly offensive and a personal attack on my property and me” said Seymour without blushing. How an attack was to be mounted without either a name or address he did not explain. “He was actively inviting people to come to my house” and the C word is “deeply offensive” to this self employed painter and decorator.
“If he was so concerned for himself and his family about the threat, did he later check to see if Olly had Tweeted an address.” “No” he said. When asked if Olly had ever spoken to him in the street, at his home or contact him in any way the answer was again no.
The Judge had heard enough, Olly he said, had been uncivilised but his language was not grossly offensive, he had “no case to answer” and he need not be called as a witness. After a short recess he said he was inclined to keep the restraining order in force however after he read it again carefully he agreed that it got too close to curtailing Olly’s freedom of speech and said he should be “perfectly entitled to sit in a public gallery of a council meeting, it is after all supposed to be a democracy”. So Olly’s style is only cramped in the sense that he is not allowed to directly or indirectly approach councillor Melvin Seymour before 9th May 2017. I don’t suppose he wants to.
Where the Judge was less generous was in the matter of costs. Whilst he accepted that the CPS had constantly messed things up and were the cause of a lot of unnecessary expense, he refused to award more than £240, protecting he said, public funds. Had the Judge from two weeks ago been sitting things may have been different.
The Court rose at 11:57.
John Kerlen’s solicitor’s report.
His barrister’s report.