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Luciana Berger in plea to other victims as racist troll convicted of harassment

MP Luciana Berger called for more victims to stand up to online bullies after a serial troll was found guilty of harassing her in a string of anti-Jewish rants.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, who turned 24 on Wednesday, wrote five hate-filled blogs about the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree after fellow far-right extremist Garron Helm was sent to prison for four weeks in October 2014.

The jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for just over one hour and 15 minutes before finding Bonehill-Paine guilty of racially-aggravated harassment.

The defendant, who smirked in the dock as he was sent down, faces up to two years in jail when he is sentenced on Thursday.

Afterwards, Ms Berger said the conviction should send a "strong signal" that no-one need "suffer in silence".

She said: "Together we can show that they are not, nor will they ever be, tolerated."

The court heard how Garron, then 21, from Merseyside, had admitted sending a picture on Twitter depicting Ms Berger, 35, with a holocaust-era Star of David on her forehead and the hashtag "Hitler was right".

Over the next four months, Bonehill-Paine posted articles online calling her a "dominatrix" and "an evil money-grabber" with a "deep-rooted hatred of men".

In one, he claimed the number of Jewish Labour MPs was a "problem".

He illustrated his posts with offensive pictures, including the anti-Jewish cliche of a rat with Ms Berger's face superimposed on it.

Bonehill-Paine hailed the "Filthy Jew Bitch Campaign" led by US white supremacist site Daily Stormer as "fantastically successful" after the MP was sent 2,500 tweets.

Throughout, Bonehill-Paine, of Yeovil, Somerset, was on bail awaiting sentence for making claims on Twitter that several people were paedophiles.

Giving evidence, Ms Berger said she "felt sick" at the blogs and "very much under attack".

She told jurors she feared for her safety because "what happens online does not always stay online".

James Palfrey, for Bonehill-Paine, described the posts as "satire" and "pathetic puerile rubbish" as he argued that they fell within the right to freedom of speech.

But prosecutor Philip Stott said the defendant had refused to face questions in the witness box because he had no "sensible" answer to the charge.

The jury was not told that the defendant, a former hospice worker, is currently serving three years and four months in jail over a conviction in December last year for posting anti-Semitic material ahead of a planned neo-Nazi rally.

He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred in a flyer featuring a picture of Auschwitz saying the rally in Golders Green - home to many London-based Jews - would be "a gas".

Before adjourning, Mr Stott outlined the defendant's long criminal history which dates back to when he was in care aged just 15.

It includes punching and throwing keys at carers, stabbing holes in a wall with a knife, fraud, being racially abusive, and assaulting an officer while stealing a police uniform.

In 2013, he wrote on his website that the owners of a Leicestershire pub had "out of respect for the Islamic community" banned members of the armed forces.

It resulted in threats of arson and criminal damage and led to the pub's closure to protect staff.

The court heard he was on bail over the harassment campaign against Ms Berger when he committed the Golders Green offence which landed him in jail last year.

The court heard of the devastating impact on some of Bonehill-Paine's victims, who had been falsely accused of being paedophiles.

Trial judge Mr Justice Spencer commented to jurors: "The internet is a great blessing but there is a dark side."

Outside court, Ms Berger told reporters: "Every day up and down our country, people suffer harassment and racial abuse.

"Today's verdict demonstrates that under British law, those who perpetrate these horrific crimes can and will be brought to justice; and it recognises that the British values of equality, tolerance and mutual respect that we hold dear apply as much on the internet as they do offline."

She added: "If any good can come from this awful experience, I hope that it will send a strong signal to anyone experiencing harassment - you do not have to suffer in silence.

"I'd encourage everyone to report these crimes. Together we can show that they are not, nor will they ever be, tolerated."

Bonehill-Paine's conviction came days after neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, 53, was handed a whole life term at the same court for the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Earlier this year, internet troll John Nimmo, 28, from South Shields, was convicted of making a death threat against Ms Berger by saying she would ''get it like Jo Cox''.

In his first email of July 6, he told Ms Berger: ''Justice for Joshua Bonehill-Paine will be sweet, he has friends everywhere. Watch your back Jewish scum, regards your friend the Nazi.''

He then followed it up two days later with ''You will get it like Jo Cox did, you better watch your back Jewish scum',' just as Ms Berger was leaving her office in the early evening.

Nimmo was previously jailed in 2014 for eight weeks for sending abusive messages on Twitter to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and Walthamstow Labour MP Stella Creasy.


From Belfast Telegraph