Viscount who offered money to attack anti-Brexit campaigner jailed
Lawyers warned of the “legal minefield” that is social media after an aristocrat was jailed yesterday for offering a £5,000 reward for running over the woman behind the successful court challenge to the article 50 process.
Rhodri Philipps, the 4th Viscount St Davids, wrote on Facebook: “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first generation immigrant.” He was referring to Gina Miller, the City of London businesswoman whose victory in the Supreme Court forced the government to put the notification of Britain’s intent to leave the EU to MPs.
The 50-year-old viscount was jailed for 12 weeks at Westminster magistrates’ court after he was found guilty of two charges of sending menacing messages on a public electronic communications network. He had admitted writing the posts, but said they were not visible or menacing. Judge Emma Arbuthnot also ordered Lord St Davids, who is reported to have been made bankrupt, to pay £500 in compensation.
Susan Hall, a partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott, said: “The case shows that people have to choose their words carefully when posting on Facebook and Twitter.” The lawyer said the verdict showed that “it is not a defence to say you were being satirical”.
She continued: “The rules are still very much being established over online posts and it has been clear in previous cases that just being offensive may not lead to prosecution. But it is a minefield that most people will regret wandering into and it is important for people to think before they post and not get carried away.
“Even if all your mates know it is the sort of thing you might say after a couple of beers you can land in major trouble. It is not your mates who are reading it and it is how it might be read by others that matters most to the courts.”