politics

Man, 36, sentenced for sending threatening email to Angela Rayner


A man has been given a suspended prison sentence after admitting sending a threatening email to Angela Rayner telling her to “watch your back and your kids”.

Benjamin Iliffe, 36, from Cambridgeshire, was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to malicious communications.

Iliffe was one of three men arrested on suspicion of malicious communications towards the deputy leader of the Labour party, and he was charged by police on Thursday.

He was made the subject of a two-year restraining order not to contact Rayner directly or indirectly, not to talk about her on social media and not to go to her office in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester.

Separately, a 70-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of malicious communication on Thursday and police said he remains in custody for questioning over abusive emails received on 16 October.

It comes the day after police arrested a 52-year-old man from Halifax over alleged threats against Rayner. His arrest related to abusive phone calls received on 15 October and he has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.

The court heard Iliffe warned Rayner to “watch your back and your kids” in the email.

It said: “Promise you cunt. There’s so many people in this country now, after your poster boy murdered an Englishman who are coming after you now cunt.

“You were easy to find btw. I already found your personal home address.”

Delivering the sentence, the presiding magistrate, Andrew Riddington, said: “We believe that the offences are so serious that it does cross the custody threshold. It’s so serious because of the psychological harm caused to a public servant.”

However, Riddington said the sentence could be suspended after credit for Iliffe‘s guilty pleas and the “remorse shown”. He hoped the rehabilitation activity would help the defendant with his “low self-esteem” and “drug use”.

Claire Thorneley, mitigating, said Iliffe had no previous convictions. “It’s one email sent from his own personal account with no attempt to disguise himself,” she said. “He made full admissions in police interview as to his conduct.

“He was very apologetic and remorseful. He’s expressed twice that he would wish an opportunity to apologise personally to Ms Rayner for the fear and distress he caused.”

The defendant was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and 35 days of a rehabilitation activity. He was made to pay £85 costs and a £128 victim surcharge.

Police said there was an ongoing investigation into multiple reports of threatening and abusive phone calls, emails and letters towards a woman in Ashton-under-Lyne. Rayner’s spokesperson confirmed the arrests related to abuse against her.

Rayner is understood to have cancelled her constituency surgeries in recent weeks amid concerns for her safety linked to a wider increase of abuse and threats, including death threats, against her.

She has not spoken in person about the threats made against her but she may make a statement later on Thursday. She is currently away from the Commons on bereavement leave, meaning she could not stand in for the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday. Starmer is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.

Friends said she had been deeply affected by the abuse, which had been taken particularly hard by her children. One described the deputy leader as “not in a good place” and said she had been unable to make many public appearances because of fears for her safety.

In a tweet, Rayner thanked the police for “supporting me, my family and my staff during this time, which has been particularly difficult for my children”.

On Wednesday, her spokesperson said abuse and threats had increased in recent weeks. “Angela and her staff have received a number of threatening, malicious and abusive communications in recent weeks,” they said.

“We are working with the police to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and Angela would like to thank the police for their work during these investigations.”

The spokesperson added: “Abuse and threats of this nature don’t just have an impact on Angela but also on her family, her children and her staff, who are on the receiving end of these communications.

“Angela is currently on bereavement leave after losing a close loved one and she looks forward to being back at work as soon as possible.”



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