A BLOGGER could face jail after sending tweets which were found to be grossly offensive and menacing.
John Graham Kerlen tweeted a picture of Bexley Councillor Melvin Seymour’s house in Crayford last October with the message: “To start, which c*** lives in a house like this? Answers on a postcard to Bexley Council.”
Later he tweeted: “It is silly posting a picture of a councillor’s house on Twitter without his address. That will come later. Please feel free to post him actual s***.”
At Bexley Magistrates’ Court on Friday (April 13), the 37-year-old was found guilty of sending a grossly offensive and menacing message over a public communications network.
In January, he was found not guilty of harassment in relation to the same tweets.
Kerlen, of Millwards in Essex, did not deny sending the tweets but pleaded not guilty on the basis that they were not grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing.
Kerlen told police after his arrest that he was “mucking around”.
He said: “I like being funny and controversial. It was a throw-away comment.
“Obviously I push the boundaries, I’m not going to lie.”
Kerlen conceded: “This time I pushed it a bit too far.”
The blogger writes under the name Olly Cromwell and keeps a blog, youve-been-cromwelled.org, which is critical of Bexley Council.
He said he keeps the blog to vent his “anger and frustration”.
Last July, Kerlen was banned from Bexley Council meetings for attempting to film proceedings without permission.
He told police: “I have not personally been harassing them, I have just been writing stuff on my blog. As far as I’m concerned I can write what I like, they don’t have to read it.”
Elizabeth Dean, defending, conceded the messages were “rude” and “impolite” but said: “These posts cannot even come close to what is beyond the pale as to what is tolerated in our society. At most they are swear words.”
She added: “Are we going to be arresting every person that uses Twitter and uses a swear word?”
She said there was no direct invitation for anyone to do anything and that Councillor Seymour – who does not use Twitter – had never actually seen the comments.
Prosecutor John Venes said: “If we have got to the stage where posting these kind of things [is acceptable] we are in a sorry state.”
Mr Venes argued that the message was intended to cause offense and that a political motive was not a defence.
Councillor Seymour told the court: “I felt intimidated for myself and for my wife and family.
“The fact people are being invited to visit is not a very nice thing to live with.”
Returning a guilty verdict, District Judge Julia Newton said the tweets were both grossly offensive and menacing.
She said: “I do not think the tweets can be anything other than grossly offensive.
“It is quite clear from the words used that there was every intention to insult Melvin Seymour.”
Kerlen was granted bail to be sentenced at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on May 9, just days before the due date of his second child.
Under his bail conditions he must not enter any detail on any social networking site that makes any direct or indirect reference to Bexley Councillors or staff.
In addition to his sentence, he also faces a restraining order, a draft of which has been seen by News Shopper, which would prevent him from referring to any Bexley councillor on the internet.
After the hearing, Kerlen’s mother Susan Kerlen, also of Millwards in Essex, said: “I am quite shocked and surprised.
“I think he is more shocked. He has got a baby due in a few weeks so I hope he doesn’t go away. He’s got a son in Leeds who will be distraught.
Mrs Kerlen, 60, added: “He would not have intended to insult anybody because that’s not who he is. It was a throw-away remark. Maybe this will make him think before he verbalises his thoughts in the future.”
She said her son plans to appeal.
July 24, 2010 Kerlen is ordered off a train and detained at Gravesend station for taking pictures on his mobile phone.
August 27, 2010 Southeastern Trains apologise.
July 6, 2011 Banned from Bexley Council meetings for attempting to film proceedings without permission.
October 1, 2011 Sends offending tweets.
October 28, 2011 Arrested and charged with harassment.
December 21, 2011 Found not guilty of harassment and charged with sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages.
April 13, 2012 Found guilty after trial at Bexley Magistrates’ Court.
May 9, 2012 Due to be sentenced at Bromley Magistrates’ Court.