'Pathetic and puerile' racist troll convicted of harassing MP Luciana Berger

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A racist serial internet troll has been found guilty of harassing MP Luciana Berger in a string of anti-Jewish rants sent after the jailing of a fellow far-right extremist.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, who turned 24 on Wednesday, wrote five hate-filled blogs about the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree after 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.

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".

The MP said: "It's fair to say I was the most concerned I have ever been about my personal safety since I was elected.

"It was in the midst of this 'Filthy Jewish Bitch' campaign the police were in constant contact with me. They were in my office and home and assisted my personal safety."

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 that 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".

Bonehill-Paine's conviction comes 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, another 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.

 

Bonehill-Paine nodded to people gathered in the public gallery but made no reaction when he was found guilty.

Ms Berger sat in the well of the court as the jury delivered its verdict.

Mr Justice Spencer said he would adjourn sentencing to consider an application for a criminal behaviour order.

The maximum sentence for the racially aggravated offence is seven years, the court heard.

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

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.