Monday, 8 January 2018

Many local people (and no small number living further afield) will be familiar with local blogger Malcolm Knight and his blog "Bexley is Bonkers". His blog routinely highlights various illegal, immoral and otherwise shady shenanigans perpetrated by Bexley councillors and officials; and the frequent collusion by the local Police in covering up such activities.

As such, he is often the subject of a number of the above mentioned "shady shenanigans" orchestrated by councillors and their partners in crime. For instance, on one occasion the Police wrote to him with the warning that he could be prosecuted for "criticising councillors" and it took the intervention of the Independent Police Complains Commission to force them into a retraction.

This is the obscene, homophobic blog
which originated from the address
of Cllr Peter Craske. He was arrested
but never charged with any offence
On another occasion, an obscene, homophobic blog which was using the URL "" and directed at Malcolm and  fellow campaigners was eventually traced to the address of a Bexley councillor, Peter Craske (Blackfen & Lamorby). According to the local paper, he was arrested but never prosecuted; again, mainly due the the interference of the local Police. (See BiB ad nauseam).

More recently, Malcolm was again threatened by Bexley Police after reporting the case of councillors Don (Cray Meadows) and Sharon (Danson Ward) Massey whose Daughter held a couple of rowdy teenage parties over the Easter period in 2016 in a property they rented. (Link here).

The second of these parties was causing so much racket that the next door neighbour called the Police and the call handler, hearing the noise, sent a patrol car to investigate.

The Massey's not only failed to apologise to the neighbour but Don Massey actually verbally assaulted her, claiming that there was no need to have called the Police. Then, even worse, got a couple of their tame Police officers to go round to the neighbour's house and threaten her and her Daughter. The same two officers then went to the home of Malcolm Knight and made a false claim against him of harassment for having reported the incident in his blog. They did finally agree that he hadn't harassed the Masseys although it took them seven months to do so.

The latest incident though really does represent a new low when it comes to the persecution of innocent people.

To summarise, Councillor Maxine Fothergill (Bexleyheath & Crayford) agreed to pay £70,000 in damages following a High Court action for libel brought by two of the employees working for her company, Amex Estates, who she accused of misappropriation of a large sum of money: this resulted in one employee being charged with an offence and kept under arrest for a full 11 months before it was decided that she had no case to answer.

I don't intend to go into the details of this matter, it has been fully covered in Malcolm Knight's blog and doesn't need repeating here. Malcolm Knight's reporting of the case has been meticulously accurate, quoting mostly from information already in the public domain or easily verifiable documents obtained form the various parties involved.

Nevertheless, Maxine Fothergill still took it upon herself to make a complaint to Kent Police of harassment against Malcolm Knight and they, in their wisdom have decided to pass the case to the CPS. 

One would have thought that Kent Police, having their fingers burned once (or possibly more than once) by allegations coming from Maxine Fothergill, might be somewhat reticent in accepting another one; however, this seems to be what they have done.

I don't have the exact details of what Malcolm Knight has been charged* with and can't see by looking at the legislation what offence he can have possibly committed. If the commenting on information reported elsewhere is an offence, then we must all be guilty. If he were repeating a comment or report that itself was deemed to constitute harassment then there may be a case to answer but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

*(Stop press: According to Malcolm Knight, he hasn't actually been charged with anything, the file (whatever it contains) has been passed to the CPS by Kent Police without further action by them; an unusual thing to do apparently).

In the mean time, I and a number of other local bloggers have taken up the cause and will be giving this disgraceful affair full publicity. I do urge anyone who writes their own blog or newspaper to consider the implications of this case for the freedom of speech and do the same.

Below is the open letter written by Malcolm Knight and stands on it's own merit.

"I run a news website in SE London and have done since September 2009. My MP has said it is the best source of local news in her constituency (Erith & Thamesmead). However the police have told me that any news that might cause anyone to feel uncomfortable will be regarded as criminal harassment if the subject complains.
This attitude has the potential to bring every news outlet to a standstill. Think of Damian Green in the recent past and Kier Starmer/John Worboys today.
On 14th November 2017 a Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill was in the High Court in the Strand where she had admitted lying in a widely distributed letter and agreed to pay a total £70,000 to the two litigants. Legal costs were estimated to be in the region of £280,000.
I provided brief details the same day.
On the 16th November I received the News Press Pack from one of the litigants and was able to provide more detail and documentary evidence on that day and the following two days by which time I felt the story was exhausted.
On 30th November Cllr. Fothergill’s letter of apology began to reach interested parties and that fact was also noted.
No more happened until 8th December when I received a letter from Cllr. Fothergill’s solicitor. It asked only that I did not link to the local UKIP website which had carried the same story but went further and suggested the libel case implied corruption.
I had made no judgment at all, no opinion on the morality etc. of the Councillor whatsoever.
The solicitor presumably recognised the restrained nature of my news reporting.
On 18th December I was commanded by Kent Police to attend Swanley Police station or be arrested. I was interviewed under caution for doing what you do every day. Publishing simple news but in my case without any significant comment.
The latest information is that they are considering sending a file to the CPS. (On 5th January 2018 they did so). They appear to be conflating Harassment with Hate Crime. If the subject perceives Harassment then it is Harassment.
If this is allowed to go forward every news outlet might be subject to the same rules.
This is not the first time I have been attacked by Bexley Councillors. I was threatened in writing by the Met. Police that I would be arrested if I ever “criticised Councillors”. The IPCC made them withdraw that threat.
More recently I was accused of Harassment of a minor who was the daughter of a Councillor who had himself been spoken to by the police because of noisy house parties. I had used a photograph (attached) to illustrate a story on a related subject.
The photo had been taken from the Councillor’s own Facebook page and the decision to blur it was entirely mine. I did not say who was in the photo or mention the relationship with the Councillor or in fact give any clue as to why the photo was included in the story.
I was accused of “revealing all the personal details of a minor” even though no one outside her own family circle would have any idea who it was.
It took seven months for the police’s legal advisers to conclude that no offence had been committed.
The police (Kent in this case) are out of control and politicised. I could tell you of cases where Councillors have committed criminal offences against me. In one case the CPS lost the evidence and the other is still rumbling on nearly seven years later.
Making simple news reporting a criminal offence is a step too far which should be tackled at every level."