A right-wing blogger harassed a Jewish MP by writing a series of racially-charged articles about her because he wanted to “silence” her, a court has heard.
Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 23, is charged with aggravated racial harassment against Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree. He wrote the articles in an attempt to intimidate her into not reporting further allegations of racist abuse against her to the police, the Old Bailey heard on Tuesday, the second day of the trial.
The court heard that Bonehill-Paine wrote his first article about Berger on 27 October 2014 in support of Garron Helm, who was jailed for four weeks for sending a racist tweet to Berger, which contained the hashtag #HitlerWasRight.
In a YouTube video posted two days later, Bonehill-Paine supported a campaign of harassment against Berger which resulted in 2,500 abusive messages a day via social media and physical posts. He later wrote an article praising the effects of the “successful” campaign, titled "The Aftermath Of Operation Filthy Jew Bitch."
Philip Stott, for the Crown, told the court: “The reason for writing was to send a message to Miss Berger… and the message is ‘Shut up’, don’t go to the police, because if you do you will regret it.
“'You will regret it because we will harass you in a racially aggravated way’. That’s what he means when he talks about the success of the campaign. It’s not about Garron Helm, it’s not about freedom of speech, it’s about silencing people,” he said.
Berger told the court on Monday that the articles cause her deep distress. However, Bonehill-Paine, from Yeovil in Somerset, did not take to the witness stand to give evidence.
Stott told the jury: “Mr Bonehill-Paine is not on trial for being a racist – that is not a crime.
“He’s on trial for harassing her [Berger] – it’s obvious that it caused Miss Berger distress and alarm. He pleaded guilty [in a previous case] to malicious communications and to causing distress.
“That’s why he has not taken a walk from there to there and given evidence in the way she opened herself up to cross-examination.
“Because he doesn’t have a sensible, legitimate answer that can follow any key question in this trial. He cannot defend the indefensible.”
Defending, James Palfrey told the court that Bonehill-Paine was exercising his free speech and taking part in political discourse.
“The defendant expressed an opinion for which you may laugh at him. You may revile him. Because that is your democratic right.
“But in a democracy you should not make it a crime to express an opinion with which you disagree. Because when you start to silence voices you disagree with, history has told us that society ends up in a pretty bad place.”
Palfrey said Bonehill-Paine’s posts were nothing more than “piffle and nonsense” and urged the jury to deliver a verdict based purely on whether they amounted to harassment – not whether they inspired others to send Berger abusive messages.
Bonehill-Paine denies the charge and the trial continues.
Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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