Blogger Olly Cromwell Faces Prison For Calling Bexley Councillor A C**t On Twitter

Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 16/04/2012 11:49 Updated: 16/04/2012 11:53

Olly Cromwell
Olly Cromwell

A London-based blogger called "Olly Cromwell" faces a jail term for calling his local Bexley councillor a 'c***' on Twitter, after he was found guilty of improper use of social media sites.

Prosecutors are calling for Cromwell, whose real name is John Graham Kerlen, to be imprisoned for up to six months over the offence, after Greenwich court found him guilty on Friday.

Kerlen was charged with "grossly offensive malicious communications", after the councillor for Bexley council in south east London complained to police last December.

In a ruling that could set a legal precedent for freedom of speech on social media sites, the 37-year-old was found guilty of improper use of public electronic communications network, under a Section 127 offence of the Communications Act 2003.

If the prosecution are given their way when Kerlen is sentenced on 9 May, he would be jailed for 45 days for each letter of the offensive word.

Kerlen, who tweets under the name 'Chaos Is Order!' and @Sir_Olly_C, was criticising his own South London local authority on Twitter.

Annoyed, he allegedly posted a picture of a Bexley councillor's house on Twitter, writing "Which c*** lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil."

He later posted another tweet which said "It’s silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual s**t."

Although intially Kerlen was also charged with harrassment, reports one blogger, this charge was later dropped.

Kerlen has been prevented from blogging about the conviction, after a restraining order issued in December prevented him from mentioning Bexley council and its councillors, either directly or indirectly on any social media sites or blogs.

His supporters, publicising their blogs under the hashtag #freethebexleyone, have spoken out about his conviction. Blogger Spiderplantland, who has met Kerlen, highlighted the importance of the case after Friday's guilty verdict.

"What this restraining order essentially did is restrict Olly, a voter and resident in Bexley who had not, as yet, been convicted of any crime whatsoever, from using his right to free speech to challenge the views and actions of his elected councillors on his local council.

Twitter users and bloggers have expressed solidarity with Kerlen's plight and the ramifications of the guilty verdict, with one blogger writing:

"If you, like me, have ever slagged off anyone in authority using the medium of words, the current predicament of sweary blogger and avid Tweetist @Sir_Olly_C should have you rather worried."

Bexley Council issued a statement saying that though they were "totally supportive of freedom of expression and legitimate political debate, they believed that Kerlen's actions "went beyond the limits of what is both acceptable and reasonable in terms of freedom of expression"

Councillors are entitled to know "that their families and their homes are not legitimate targets for abuse" the statement continues.

However if there were hopes that Friday's conviction by Greenwich Court would stop offensive messages being posted about Bexley councillors, the ruling may have backfired. Twitter users have been using the c-word in connection with Bexley councillors sparingly, in defiance of the verdict.

Olly Cromwell, or Kerlen has continued to blog after moving his website so that the blog is hosted offshore. However, his website is down at the moment. It is unclear whether this is due to intervention by the authorities or simply crashing due to the number of visits


Chaos is Order!
My website is down at the moment. It might be because of sheer volume of visits. Maybe something else. Not sure

Kerlen is to be sentenced on 9 May.

Chris Mills
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