Top lawyer backs decision not to name and shame the Holt poison pen letter writer

Solicitor Simon Nicholls. Solicitor Simon Nicholls.

Friday, July 4, 2014
9:36 AM

A leading lawyer has said naming and shaming the writer of the Holt poison pen letters would be “barbaric”.

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Kate Biles, Norfolk and Suffolk divisional manager for Victim Support. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYKate Biles, Norfolk and Suffolk divisional manager for Victim Support. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The mystery writer, a man in his 70s from Holt, was not charged and received a verbal warning from the police. The Crown Prosecution Service was not involved.

He admitted sending 10 letters, three of which were of concern to officers and were sent to a local organisation but did not contain threats.

Reacting to the news of the verbal warning town mayor Bryan Payne said the writer should be “named and shamed”.

But Simon Nicholls, director of Belmores Solicitors in Norwich, who is an authority on criminal cases, said: “I don’t believe in adopting a Victorian approach to criminal justice.”

He said naming and shaming in some incidents could create “unforeseen circumstances”.

“I don’t think that has got real benefits and the days of naming and shaming have gone. It seems as though the man has been investigated and spoken to informally.

“Naming and shaming someone who has not been prosecuted is almost barbaric. It is a case of balance. You have to look at both sides.”

A Norfolk police spokesman said officers pursed potential offences under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 with regard to the three letters that raised concerns.

She said: “As a result of police enquiries, the man was identified as a member of the community with a grievance who took a misguided course of action to vent his frustration.

“The majority of the letters were sent to a local organisation and neither they, nor the other recipients in these letters – who are all familiar with the man’s circumstances - were interested in pursuing prosecution and were content with the action subsequently taken.

“The content of the letters did not constitute any criminal offence because of the low-level nature of it.”

The writer had not intended any malice towards people who received the letters and because of that the threshold for a criminal charge was not met, according to the spokesman.

Kate Biles, Norfolk and Suffolk divisional manager for Victim Support, said: “What action has been taken is a matter for the police. What we would hope for in reaching that decision was that the victims’ views were taken into account.

“Poison pen letters are like online bullying. Things like that are horrific because people don’t know who is behind it.

“Sometimes people do things like that because they think it is a bit of a laugh and don’t understand the impact it has on people.

“The people who reported it to the police did the right thing and hopefully now it will stop.”

She admitted it was rare to deal with victims of poison pen letters and it was more common for people to be affected by online bullying.

As reported yesterday, Sgt Damon Money said: “He [the writer] was remorseful for his actions and, having spoken to him at length, officers were satisfied that, although inappropriate and misguided, the letters were not intended to cause distress. He has made assurances that no further letters will be sent and the victims we have spoken to are content with this outcome.”

Police started an investigation last month and letters were allegedly sent over one year, some of which were received by elderly people.

To contact Victim Support call 0845 4565995.

If you feel threatened by a poison pen letter contact Norfolk police on 101.

What do you think? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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