An “inadequate” man who sent Birmingham MP Jess Phillips more than 300 abusive and threatening emails – including one describing it as “appropriate” for her to be killed in a terrorist attack on the House of Commons – has been jailed.
Tony Eckersley claimed it was fine to send racial slurs and messages calling Ms Phillips a ‘c***’ and a ‘treasonous cow’ under his right to ‘freedom of expression’.
The sick abuse, which also included sending a screenshot related to late MP Jo Cox and saying he would the Yardley politician ‘dealt with’, even continued after the 52-year-old received a formal warning from the police. The judge said it had only “spurred” the “inadequate man on”.
The emails – sent between May 2019 until February last year, a month before Eckersley was arrested- had a “profound” effect on the MP, Manchester Crown Court was told, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Branding Eckersley a “keyboard warrior”, Judge Hilary Manley told him: “What you do, in indulging in such a campaign, does not make you a hero and it does not protect or help a single other person.
“You are an inadequate man who cannot cope with the reality of having reached your fifties without ever really achieving much, save for acquiring some criminal convictions for violent and abusive behaviour, and a habit of drinking too much alcohol and sitting at your keyboard, venting your frustration at others who in your view have the temerity to put themselves in positions of public service and to hold views with which you do not agree.”
Eckersley was sentenced to 28 months in prison as the judge said the sentence should “serve as a reminder to any other self-styled keyboard warriors that the courts will not tolerate this kind of behaviour”.
He has since written a letter of apology to the MP but the judge ordered it must not be sent to her unless she wants to read it.
A 10-year restraining order was also passed, preventing Eckersley from contacting Ms Phillips or going within 100 metres of anywhere he believes she lives or works, except for pre-arranged visits to the Houses of Parliament with the consent of security staff.
Manchester Crown Court heard that Eckersley claimed to be interested in ‘the criminal elements within Islam’ but the judge said his emails were ‘diatribes punctuated with sinister threats’.
Before sentencing him, Judge Manley told Eckersley: “What you did was not remotely connected with freedom of expression.
“Sending hateful, racist and threatening communications like these is the complete opposite of democratic expression, it is deliberately calculated to frighten and silence another, and thus to shut down their freedom within a civilised society.”
Eckersley, of of The Vibe, Salford, Manchester, was arrested in March last year.
He pleaded guilty to an offence of putting another in fear of violence by racially aggravated harassment.
It is not the first time outspoken Birmingham MP Jess Phillips has been the victim of abuse.
In 2016 she drastically beefed up security at her home after receiving death threats from sick internet trolls.
She has also been subjected to a number of death and rape threats on social media, and said she had received ‘hundreds’ of frightening messages.