MP seeks protection after harassment

Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson, with husband Nik at her general election win last month. EMN-200121-120108001
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson, with husband Nik at her general election win last month. EMN-200121-120108001

Sleaford’s MP has spoken out about “frightening and threatening” messages she received from a man convicted of harassing her.

Dr Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, sought advice in Parliament on Wednesday from the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, as the courts had insisted on leaving an avenue open for Justin Blair, of North Drove, Ancaster, to continue to contact her.

Blair, 50, had denied the charge of sending numerous harassing emails and social media messages between September 2 and 13, but was found guilty by Lincoln Magistrates on Friday, January 10.

He was fined £1,100 and ordered to pay a victim services charge of £110 and court costs of £620.

A restraining order was placed on Blair until further notice not to contact Dr Johnson directly, indirectly or via a third party, except in his democratic right to contact his MP for assistance by post to her House of Commons office.

Dr Johnson said she is enormously grateful to Lincolnshire Police, and particularly the special branch officer for their support. But referring to the court case and the restraining order, she explained: “That was only on Friday, and he (Blair) has already contacted me through that mechanism to my association and called me a liar on social media.”

She went on: “Given that there is no legal requirement for Members to respond to constituents’ correspondence, other than our own public service and common decency, I am not sure why the court felt that it was unable completely to restrict this man’s ability to correspond with me.”

With a view to offering general protection to any MPs under similar circumstances, she requested an alternative point of contact in the House of Commons for those convicted of harassing their MP seeking assistance with relevant matters, so that MPs subject to such harassment do not need to have further contact with those who have harassed them.

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay responded: “I think these are very exceptional circumstances. I do not want other Members to suffer in the same way, but there are legal implications, so I will take the matter away and get back to the Honorable Lady. However, nobody in this chamber should have to suffer harassment or threats of violence, so there is a wider significance.

“I want to make sure that we get this right. I obviously cannot comment on the court’s decision at this stage.”