A businessowner from Paddington was sentenced to one year in jail this afternoon after he bombarded MPs with a string of “vile” messages and email, including death threats.
His victims included former Commons speaker John Bercow, ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former home secretary Amber Rudd and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
Paul Ritchie, pleaded guilty to 28 counts of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety over a six-month period between March and August of 2019.
Others targeted were former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC, ex-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, her successor Sir Ed Davey, and one-time London mayoral candidate and Cabinet minister Rory Stewart.
Ritchie was traced through two email addresses, including one linked to his business Snapr, a property services booking website, and arrested at his flat in Paddington, central London.
Judge Adam Hiddleston jailed Ritchie for a year at Southwark Crown Court earlier this afternoon.
“I have no doubt that you did harbour a deep-seated animosity to those who held opposing views to your own and that appeared to have been your motivation,” the judge said.
“The contents of those emails were vile. They included threats of violence, such as threats to shoot someone in the face and threats to kill, such as by way of decapitation,” the judge said.
“Those threats were not just directed towards the individuals but also in some case to their families as well. Those who received the emails would no doubt be left in fear for their personal safety and that of their loved ones.”
Cymru leader Adam Price
Prosecutor Ruby Selva earlier said Ritchie’s victims had told of their “upset, feelings of being unsettled and fear for their personal safety”.
She said Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price reported feeling “unsettled, upset and concerned for his safety” after receiving an email telling him “you deserve to get shot in the face you prick”, while having dinner with his family following an appearance to discuss Brexit on the Andrew Marr Show.
In a statement to the court, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said “the level of abuse, threats and intimidation” received by MPs had increased following the terrorist murder of Jo Cox.
“Those responsible should face the full force of the law at the appropriate level,” he said. “The members should feel safe in the knowledge they are able to perform their role in democracy.”
Emma Fenn, defending, said Ritchie felt “genuine remorse and shame at the content of these messages”, which “do not bear any resemblance to his political views”, with repeated references to Brexit despite him “voting in the opposite direction”.
“He is a businessman, an educated man, who is really currently struggling, and who has unravelled,” she added.
The court heard Ritchie was suffering with depression and had been abusing drugs and alcohol at the time of the offences.