Stephen Peddie, 61, has been sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, after being convicted last month for an ‘offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing message’.
Mr Peddie, a former parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party, tweeted about me in February last year saying: “Someone please explain to me why a bullet to the back of the head is anything but justified and wholly deserved.”
To read this was terrifying. Even more chilling was the fact that Mr Peddie legally owned firearms at the time, which I’m told were confiscated after his arrest. I therefore considered his tweet to be a genuine and public death threat against me.
After taking some time to come to terms with the sentencing, I feel let down. This man should have gone to prison for what he did, a suspended sentence is not good enough and I am worried by the message this sends. These incidents must be taken more seriously.
I was shocked by his claim in court: “I could not have reasonably expected Dawn Butler to have seen my tweet on Young’s account and she didn’t. She was sent the tweet by a third party.” It is wrong to assume I don’t see tweets about me on a public platform, especially as his comment was in response to someone who has a large number of followers.
If he is suggesting that it’s OK to make threats or abuse people online if they might not see it, that would be an extremely dangerous precedent – not least because it risks inciting others. We must never become desensitised to the abuse that we face online.
It raises serious alarm bells to me and makes me think, what else are people getting up to online that we don’t see? And what are they doing offline? The police and courts should not allow this excuse to take hold. We know there are growing right-wing dangerous groupings spreading hate and falsehoods, we also know that Incels are a very dangerous offline group that, if it wasn’t for whistle-blowers, more and more women would be in danger.
As a high-profile black Labour MP, I sadly receive abuse and racist comments on a near daily basis. I’ve received death threats and been attacked. I have become a target and this is why we must take every single case seriously, and I wish Mr Peddie would have received a stronger punishment to send an important message that it will not be tolerated. I also hope that he will never be able to own a firearms license ever again.
I am glad this went to court but I am deeply disappointed by this outcome, but no matter what I will never be silenced. The only people who should be silenced in my opinion are those who send threats and abuse.
Dawn Butler MP
For more information on this case, read my column: https://metro.co.uk/2022/01/07/as-an-mp-ive-had-death-threats-and-been-attacked-i-wont-be-silenced-15881199/