A father today has been found guilty of sending a Labour MP rape messages after she backed a campaign to put Jane Austen on a banknote.
Peter Nunn, 33, admitted retweeting messages threatening to sexually assault Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and branding her a "witch" last summer - but dismissed it as "a joke" that he found "really, really funny".
He denied this was part of a "campaign of hatred" after the Labour politician backed a high-profile bid by feminist Caroline Criado-Perez to keep a woman other than the Queen on a British bank note.
Stella Creasy MP (left) and Caroline Criado-Perez
Nunn, a part-time delivery driver from Bristol, told the City of London Magistrates Court he was "satirising" the Twitter backlash to the campaign and had no idea he was causing offence.
Among the abusive messages he posted was one which read: "Best way to rape a witch, try and drown her first then just when she's gagging for air that's when you enter."
Asked about why he posted it, the self-styled blogger said: "Purely in a joke. In the old days they tried to drown a witch - if she drowned she wasn't.
"It is just a joke. It came into my mind at the time and I thought it was really, really funny.
"I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams that anyone would think 'He is going to come and drown me like a witch'.
"The whole witch thing is obviously satirical, it is not cynical like the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) are claiming. I don't see that message as being menacing or offensive. It is just humour, nothing more than that."
He added: "You can call someone a bitch and that is offensive, but calling someone a witch is a bit less offensive."
He said he thought he was writing a "good natured joke" which was "in no way threatening".
He added: "I never really did make rape threats.
"I did make some around this time because that is what the debate was about. But now I don't bother because I don't want to get arrested and I never wanted to offend anyone.
"I wouldn't dream that Caroline or Stella would be offended by these messages. They are satire."
Nunn, who lives with his partner and three-year-old daughter, admitted using a number of different Twitter accounts to retweet and post messages about the two women.
He also admitted retweeting another message from the account @eatcreasynow threatening to rape the Labour MP.
But Nunn told the court he did not mean it to read like a threat - and was trying to show his support for Ms Creasy by retweeting the message because she had also retweeted it.
He said: "I just saw it as an incredible threat - not a legitimate threat. I was just passing it on to my Twitter followers to show them what was happening.
"I would never incite someone to make threats to people or do something bad to someone. It's not in my nature.
"I was trying to support her, not say anything against her."
And he admitted posting a message to Ms Perez telling her to treat threats to rape her as "a compliment".
Speaking in his West Country accent, he added: "I realise now that rape threats aren't a compliment. I said you could take it as a compliment you are beautiful."
Nunn posted the messages last summer - at the height of publicity around the Austen campaign.
Ms Creasy and Ms Perez both spoke publicly about the abuse they received online at the time. "This is not about Twitter," Creasy told the BBC. "This is about hatred of women and hatred of women who speak up."
And Nunn said he thought the "best way to approach the discussion was to scrutinise it by coming up with the idea of witches".
He added: "I'm the first to condemn anyone. I don't agree with people sending rape threats - it is not something I would do myself. But at the same time I didn't think it was criminal."
He accused Twitter users who spoke out against his messages of being radical feminists who "hate people" and created "a nasty atmosphere" online.
And he accused Twitter bosses of undermining his free speech by shutting down his accounts.
He said: "If I can make it clear that I didn't hate anyone because of this, I just found it a bit weird maybe a bit disturbing that my Twitter accounts kept getting banned.
"It felt like my free speech was being taken away and I didn't know why."
He added: "I felt like I was being harassed myself at the time, which is ironic."
Nunn was arrested at his home Emersons Green, Bristol, on August 7 after Ms Creasy and Ms Criado-Perez reported his abuse.
District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe found him guilty of sending indecent, obscene or menacing messages at a hearing today at City of London Magistrates Court.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more