UK

Man jailed for death threats to 'anti-Brexit' MPs

Labour MP Jenny Chapman and Tory MP Nicky Morgan Image copyright UK Parliament/EPA
Image caption Labour MP Jenny Chapman and Tory MP Nicky Morgan both received abusive calls

A man who made death threats in calls to the offices of MPs he saw as "anti-Brexit" has been jailed for 18 weeks.

Robert Vidler, 64, from Harrow, north-west London, threatened six MPs, including Nicky Morgan who was told her "days were numbered", prosecutors said.

Vidler had denied making the expletive-laden calls and voicemails, claiming he let friends use his phone when drunk.

He was found guilty of five charges of harassment without violence and three counts of sending menacing messages.

City of London Magistrates heard the father-of-three called the offices of independent MP Nick Boles, Tory MPs Ms Morgan and Dominic Grieve, and Labour MPs Sir Keir Starmer, Barry Gardiner and Jenny Chapman.

All of the calls, made in January, were intercepted by staff working for the MPs.

Prosecutor Philip Stott told court the calls, made on Vidler's mobile phone, were all directed at MPs "considered to be anti-Brexit".

'Scumbags'

Several of the voicemail recordings left by Vidler were played to the trial.

In one message picked up by Mr Boles' personal assistant, Vidler swore at the MP, telling him "we know where you live" and threatening to cut his throat.

He told Sir Keir's staff he was a walking "dead man", a "traitor" and that he would "cut his neck".

In a message to Mr Grieve, Vidler said he knew his address and his schedule.

In a later call Vidler added: "You're dead, Grieve, we know where you and your family live."

A voicemail for Mr Gardiner said: "No deal is the only deal and that will be the deal. We are leaving in March, when will you understand that? The only thing that is likely to be extended is your neck."

In text messages revealed by a police analysis of his phone, Vidler said politicians were "absolute scumbags" and that he was angry about the "Brexit fiddle", the court was told.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Robert Vidler had described politicians as "absolute scumbags", the court heard

Vidler was arrested after voluntarily going to Harrow police station and handing his phone in, Mr Stott said.

In his defence, Vidler denied carrying out web searches for MPs and claimed he would not have handed over his phone if it was him making the calls.

Deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said Vidler had "attempted to stifle [the MPs'] legitimate political views" and undermined "the free democratic society in which we live".

"The nature of these calls included, effectively, death threats, but they had a common theme that [they] were all motivated by a desire to leave the European Union in very forthright and aggressive terms," he added.

Sarah Jennings, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said staff at the MPs' offices had felt "alarmed" by Vidler's threats.

"His actions went far beyond just expressing his opinion," she added.

Vidler was sentenced to 18 weeks for each of the eight offences, all to be served concurrently, and ordered to pay £300 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

He was also made subject to a criminal behaviour order which prevents him from contacting any MP except his own.

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