Man given suspended sentence for death threat to MP

Geoffrey Farquharson sent a racist and homophobic voice message to Ben Bradshaw the day before Jo Cox MP was killed

Geoffrey Farquharson, 37, leaves Exeter magistrates court after receiving a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for two years. Photograph: Rod Minchin/PA

Geoffrey Farquharson, 37, leaves Exeter magistrates court after receiving a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for two years. Photograph: Rod Minchin/PA

A man who sent a threatening voice message to senior Labour MP Ben Bradshaw the day before the killing of parliamentary colleague Jo Cox has been given a suspended sentence.

In the two-minute message Geoffrey Farquharson, 37, shouts down the phone, swears repeatedly and makes threats towards the former culture secretary. The racist and homophobic message, which was left on the answerphone of Bradshaw’s parliamentary office, was sent the day before Labour MP Cox was killed in June this year.

The message made Bradshaw fearful for the safety of his staff, Exeter magistrates court heard. District Judge Stephen Nichols sentenced Farquharson to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.

He was also given a 25-day community order, banned indefinitely from contacting Bradshaw or attending his constituency office, and ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs.

The judge told him: “The message was clearly homophobic, Islamophobic and racist and there was clearly a death threat to Mr Bradshaw.

“You accept through your guilty plea that the message you sent to Mr Bradshaw was highly offensive. In the message, your voice became extremely angry and you make threats and use highly offensive and abusive language.”

In the message, which was played to the court, Farquharson starts by giving his full name and address and says he has just watched a video on Facebook about Muslim extremism.

Farquharson then launches a homophobic tirade against Bradshaw, who is gay, and repeatedly goads the MP to call the police. The defendant uses highly offensive language throughout, and describes Bradshaw as “evil”.

The call was picked up by a member of the MP’s staff, who raised the alarm. After Bradshaw reported the matter to the police, Farquharson was arrested the following day.

The court heard that the MP had made a victim impact statement, in which he said: “Having had death threats before I was not unduly concerned about myself and more concerned about my staff, particularly in Exeter, who have borne the brunt of Mr Farquharson.”

He went on to say that public servants should not have to put up with threats and abuse from members of the public and that his concerns had been heightened because of the killing of Cox.

At a previous hearing, Farquharson, of Exeter, had pleaded guilty to sending an indecent or grossly offensive message. Farquharson, who suffers from mental health issues, was accompanied by his carer when he returned to court to be sentenced.

The judge heard that Farquharson had autism and a difficult upbringing. Rob Jacobs, defending, said Farquharson’s “anger and annoyance” had been building up at what he saw as “concerns for others” and he had “lost his temper”.

Jacobs said: “Mr Farquharson is both very vulnerable and probably a very lonely individual. I don’t think he would mind me saying that that he has too much time to think and ruminate on his political views. It is true that his political views are strongly held.

“He would say that he does not hold homophobic or racist views himself and the words he used were a manifestation of his anger and frustration, rather than him holding any anti-social views.”

Last week, Bradshaw said the abuse dished out to politicians on social media had got worse since the death of Cox. He told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show he believed it was now “socially acceptable” to use Facebook and Twitter to abuse politicians and he hoped the killing would lead to a “deeper reflection” about the political culture in the UK.

The Guardian

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