Blogger accused of harassing Labour MP 'has no sensible answer to charge'

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A self-confessed internet troll on trial for harassing MP Luciana Berger in a string of anti-Semitic rants has remained silent because he has no "sensible" answer to the charge, jurors were told.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 23, posted five blogs about the Liverpool Wavertree Labour MP who he blamed for jailing his "comrade" Garron Helm, the Old Bailey has heard.

In anti-Jewish blogs on two websites over four months, he likened Ms Berger, 35, to a rat and called her "evil" and a "money-grabber", jurors have heard.

Ms Berger told jurors she feared for her life in the midst of the posts and a wider "Filthy Jew Bitch Campaign" in support of Helm who posted a picture of Ms Berger on Twitter with a Star of David on her head and the hashtag "Hitler was Right".

Throughout, Bonehill-Paine was on bail awaiting sentence for sending "malicious communications" and harassment on Twitter and a website alleging that several people were paedophiles.

The court has heard that the defendant, of Yeovil, Somerset, denies racially-aggravated harassment against Ms Berger between October 2014 and January 2015.

Jurors were told that he is claiming his conduct was "reasonable in the circumstances" and falls within the bounds of freedom of speech.

At the close of the prosecution case, defence lawyer James Palfrey told the court that his client had decided not to go into the witness box in his defence.

Trial judge Mr Justice Spencer told jurors they were entitled to draw inferences from his failure to do so.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Philip Stott said: "Mr Bonehill-Paine is not on trial for being a racist, that's not a crime.

"He's not on trial for expressing racist views. That's not a crime. That is his right to freedom of speech.

"What he is on trial for is harassing a particular individual and doing so in a way demonstrating racial hostility to her."

Mr Stott reminded jurors of Ms Berger's evidence that she "felt sick" and was "incredibly troubled and concerned" by his blogs.

He said: "It's clear she was actually alarmed and distressed by the defendant's actions."

The prosecutor said the defendant had not opened himself up to cross examination in the witness box because he has "no sensible" answer.

The "Filthy Jew Bitch" campaign which the defendant had hailed a success after it resulted in 2,500 tweets was not about Helm, Mr Stott said, but was to "harass Luciana Berger in the most racist way".

He told jurors: "This is a man who hates Jews, who hates them because they are Jews. He hates Luciana Berger not because she is an MP particularly. He hates her because she is Jewish and in a position of some prominence in public life. He is affronted that somebody could speak out."