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Man jailed in UK for racist online trolling of Priti Patel

Press Trust of India  |  London 

A man who confessed to sending offensive online messages to Britain's new Indian-origin Home Secretary Priti Patel last year has been sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment by a UK court this week.

Gerard Traynor was arrested in January this year after posting a string of racist messages to the senior Conservative Party MP's Facebook page between October and December 2018. The 53-year-old similarly trolled Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster.

This was not the exercise of the democratic right to free speech or the type of critical commentary that all politicians face on a day to day basis. On the contrary the messages are deeply offensive and threatening, said Judge Simon Bryan, during the sentencing hearing at Manchester Crown Court on Friday.

In reference to the messages directed at Patel, he noted: "The content of your message is shocking and disgusting, and is clearly racially motivated.

It uses debased language that has no place in our multi-cultural society and was designed to insult and to demean and incite racial hatred.

In her statement to the police which was submitted to the court, 47-year-old Patel, who has since become a frontline minister, expressed her shock and disgust at the online attacks and described the impact it had on her personal and public life.

Patel's statement read: I converse with the public on a daily basis this can provoke debate and I am faced with criticism. This incident has taken acceptable behaviour to serious criminality, the content was shocking and disgusting in its nature and the messages were racist, grossly offensive, hugely upsetting and caused me to feel intimidated.

"It had a huge impact on both my personal and professional life, I am a lot more wary of my surroundings when I am in public.

DUP leader Foster, in her statement, said she became concerned for her loved ones after the very aggressive and threatening messages.

She said: I expect a degree of commentary but these messages overstep the mark of free speech. I don't know the sender, where he was or what his intentions were.

I was concerned about my own movements, but at least I am in control of my own movements My concerns were for my family and those around me.

The prosecution in the case told the court that Traynor had refused to engage with support agencies in the past. He was described as a lonely man, who has 11 previous convictions for similar offences.

Traynor pleaded guilty to 16 counts of sending threatening or grossly offensive malicious communications 15 of which relate to Foster and the 16th to Patel before being sentenced for the crimes.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, July 27 2019. 18:45 IST
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