In September, 2022, an article was published on Neil Wilby Media with the self-explanatory headline: ‘Journalism is not a popularity contest but this abuse is absolutely off the scale’.
It can be read in full here but, briefly, it chronicles a reporter’s journey through the political cauldron that is the famous old East Lancashire town of Oldham – and the darker, and now very much infamous, corners of the Borough’s internet. Populated by some of the most evil and persistent of social media’s stalkers and trolls (read more here).
For some time, an alleged victim of on-line stalking and harassment has been in contact with the author of this article, Neil Wilby, over county court injunction proceedings and attempts to have the person responsible arrested, charged and prevented from continuing what is described as a ‘malicious’ course of conduct, at least until the matter came before a court.
Regarding the latter, numerous reports had been made to both Lancashire Constabulary (Lancs) and Greater Manchester Police (GMP). The distress, alarm and fear for safety of both her and family members, caused as a result, is very real. It has been evidenced first hand – and the physical and mental effects are there to be seen and heard.
A rejection by the alleged victim of a job application, made to her business by the alleged perpetrator, is said to be germane to all that has followed over the succeeding years.
The alleged perpetrator is very well known to Lancs police officers; their chief constable took him to court in 2019 and obtained a permanent anti-social behaviour injunction, and a costs award of £30,000 against him, over both his in-person behaviour and, particularly, his conduct on-line. There is, given the history, a palpable, and understandable, reluctance of officers from that force to engage with new complainants about the same perpetrator.
Nevertheless, last week the alleged victim in the subject cases contacted Neil Wilby to provide an update on the injunction proceedings and to say that the alleged perpetrator of the stalking and harassment was to be arrested following a witness statement and supporting evidence she had provided to GMP earlier in that week.
The alleged perpetrator lives in West Lancashire so, following routine journalistic procedure, contact was made with the press office of the police force in that area for official confirmation of his arrest. Given his own antecedents, and the high public profile of the alleged victim (she frequently appears on network TV and radio – and in the local, regional and national press), a matter of significant public interest.
Further contact was made with GMP press office, in whose force area the alleged victim lives. An internet search quickly established the alleged perpetrator’s address, and month/year of birth, which enabled the correct individual to be identified and the appropriate business area in the respective police forces to be contacted. This journalist and the two respective press offices are all familiar with one another, over a number of years, and courteous but professional contact is very much the norm. It was also made known, not at all surprisingly, that the two force press offices were in contact with one another over the enquiries made by Neil Wilby.
After two days of tripartite email exchanges and one phone call to Lancs, late in the afternoon of the second day, there was sufficient official material gathered to solidly ground a report of the arrest and subsequent release on bail, with conditions. That was considerably aided by the alleged perpetrator providing extensive detail of the arrest and interview upon his release from Preston police station in a running commentary on the Twitter social media platform.
He also gave details of the search conduct by the police which appeared, from his own words, to have been undertaken at both his home and office, nearby. This was not detail obtained from the police, even after I put to them a specific question over which powers had been exercised to conduct the search mentioned by the alleged perpetrator (either section 18 or 32 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act).
Early on Saturday 25th March, 2023 a report was published on Neil Wilby Media’s various channels using just some of the information gathered over the preceding two days. The rest of it was unused for the moment, but may well be useful as the case progresses. These are now live criminal proceedings and an abundance of caution is, of course, standard in such circumstances. There was also the added pressure of what was likely, given his lengthy history, to be an adverse reaction from a person who is now identified as the suspect in a police investigation.
That neutrally written article, grounded in information provided from two police forces and answers to associated press office requests from an accredited journalist, has resulted in further and extensive commentary by the suspect on the details and merits of his arrest, the substance of the police investigation, the merits and performance of some of the officers involved in it, and his bail conditions.
The suspect initially claimed on Twitter that he was released under investigation (RUI), which cannot by law carry conditions, and he has since wrongly asserted, on the same social media platform, what those bail conditions are.
That social media output includes a torrent of wild allegations against Neil Wilby, that are in the main highly defamatory and, very arguably, reach the criminal threshold in terms of harassment and malicious communications, both by the suspect and what appear to be his regular followers. A significant number are common to both him and an unemployed Tameside-based conspiracy theorist who has featured elsewhere on Neil Wilby Media over the past two years, or so.
Other supporters of both men have provided commentary, including their views on the suspect’s guilt, or otherwise, that may reach the Contempt of Court threshold.
The evidence is being collected and a report will be made to the police on Monday 27th March, 2023.
Page last updated Sunday 26th March, 2023 at 0755hrs
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