London-based blogger 'Olly Cromwell' faces a jail term for calling his local Bexley councillor a 'c***' on Twitter, after being found guilty of improper use of social media sites on Friday.
Cromwell, whose real name is John Graham Kerlen is facing a sentence of up to six months for the tweets, after Greenwich Crown Court found him guilty of the improper use of public electronic communications network, under a Section 127 offence of the Communications Act 2003.
That's 45 days for each letter of the swear word.
The first tweet which landed Kerlen in hot water was a post showing a picture of a Bexley councillor's house, with the caption "Which c*** lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil."
When asked why he wrote it, Kerlen told The Huffington Post UK there was "no malice intended" but whilst playing with his new phone, and living opposite the councillor, he thought he'd be "a bit of a joker" and post a picture of the house with words similar to the show Through the Keyhole.
"The tweet was topical (for me) as I had been 'investigating' the council and councillors for a while." he explained.
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."
However Kerlen insists he never actually identified the councillor or where he lived.
"I didn't ever say whose house it was nor did I ever give the address, it was just an off the cuff remark that I made."
He explained that because he lived opposite the councillor's house it was in his own interests to protect his anonymity too.
"I never in a million years would have guessed that someone would recognise the house," he admits, saying that even the councillor in question only saw the offending tweets for the first time in court on Friday.
Despite that, when asked if he regretted sending the tweets, he replied "a bit of yes and a lot of no. Yes because of all the distress it's brought my family and myself. No because I do not believe I did anything wrong."
Although he describes the prospect of jail as "a little worrying," Kerlen has already been kept in police custody because of the tweets.
Arrested for harassment following the posts (a charge which was later dropped over lack of evidence) Kerlen spent eight hours in police custody.
On a separate occasion, a councillor reported him for breaching bail conditions. Kerlen explains:
"The police didn't investigate and I was found not to have breached bail by a District Judge in Bromley the following day. The reason I was kept in a cell overnight was because the police wanted to interview me again (which is unusual in breach of bail offences) so I missed the magistrate for the day."
However Kerlen says his barrister thinks the likelihood of a custodial sentence is unlikely. Even so, his legal advisors are concerned, as "the judge asked for a sentencing hearing and refused to sentence me there at the trial." (Kerlen is to appear in court again on 9 May.)
The proposed restraining order that may accompany the jail sentence, Kerlen believes is also "very, very severe."
"It's asking for me to be banned from contacting any councillors, owning any website that mentions councillors and is asking for me to remove posts from my site as it is harassment. Harassment which I was found not guilty of. This case isn't about harassment, it's about Section 127."
Kerlen intends to appeal the verdict, the sentence and the restraining order.
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