Jewish MP branded ‘racist Zionist’ in harassment campaign, court hears

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Jewish MP branded ‘racist Zionist’ in harassment campaign, court hears

Dame Margaret Hodge was left 'disturbed' by series of messages sent by Nicholas Nelson, who faces a possible jail term after pleading guilty to sending offensive messages

Dame Margaret Hodge

Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Dame Margaret Hodge Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge was left feeling “disturbed” after she was branded a “racist Zionist” in a harassment campaign, a court has heard.

Nicholas Nelson, 31, is facing a possible jail sentence after pleading guilty at Bristol Magistrates’ Court last month to three counts of sending communications of an offensive nature in 2018.

Prosecutor Simon Maughan said the offence against Dame Margaret, MP for Barking, east London, has been flagged as a “hate crime”.

The other charges relate to the abuse of Dame Louise Ellman and Lord (John) Mann, who were also both Labour MPs at the time, leading to Nelson’s sentencing hearing being moved to London.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that, on July 18 2018, Dame Margaret’s parliamentary assistant answered an abusive phone call.

Nelson said: “Margaret should f*** off, you f***ing racist Zionist c***. You need to get out of the party and I hope you die, you Tory c***.”

Mr Maughan said that, in a further phone call the same day, Nelson added: “Margaret Hodge is an apartheid-supporting disgusting scumbag bitch.”

The court heard that Dame Margaret was also told by her parliamentary office staff about abusive emails that had been sent.

“After reading them I felt disturbed and rather shocked at the vitriol expressed,” she said in a statement read by the prosecutor.

“I considered the emails to be threatening and was left feeling nervous and unsure about my safety.

“For the first time, I now feel under threat because of my Jewish identity.”

Dame Louise’s parliamentary assistant said she felt “extremely uncomfortable and distressed” after reading an email sent by Nelson on August 2 2018, the court heard.

“Louise Ellman is a hypocritical Tory c*** who is so thick she is trying to smear (then Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn with an event she herself attended,” it said.

Lord Mann’s parliamentary assistant answered an abusive phone call on September 3 2018, while a voicemail referring to the peer said: “Kill yourself. When are you going to have a stroke?”

The court heard that Nelson, of North Walsham in Norfolk, had previously sent abusive and threatening emails in April that year in which he also said he was Jewish himself.

In a statement read in court, Lord Mann said the constant phone calls to him and his staff from Nelson meant they could not answer the phone to constituents.

“I call out racism and antisemitism, but the abuse and threats of violence have led to my staff asking me not to do so,” he said.

Julian Young, defending Nelson, said his client had “undiagnosed psychiatric difficulties” at the time of the offences and his mental health issues are now being dealt with by medication and treatment.

“In a parliamentary democracy, MPs of whatever party and whatever religious belief – and I’m Jewish myself so I know what antisemitism is and I’ve suffered it – are entitled to go about their duties on behalf of their constituents without having to face such conduct, and he accepts that,” he said.

“My client has given me written instructions and tenders a full apology to the three victims to the harm caused by his comments.”

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot adjourned sentencing to November 25 and told Nelson that all options are open, including a jail sentence.

Nelson was handed a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, in December 2018 after admitting harassing then Jewish Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth in March and April that year.


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